Written by The Watcher 11-29-2002 03:22 PM
The Watcher awoke to find himself lying in a bed inside what appeared to be a curtained alcove. Beside him was a table, with vessels and basins on top for washing. Still wondering where he was, he used his powers to see passed the curtain into the room beyond. He saw a man sitting in a room sparsely furnished with a table, two chairs, and a bench. Three high narrow windows looked out over the great curve of Anduin, shrouded in mists, towards te Emyn Muil and Rauros far away.
Deciding it was safe, the Watcher proceeded to get up and walk into the main area of the room.
Man: Ah, it is good to see you roused. We had spied the blast of fire and devestation and sent men to investigate. That is where they found you, lying bereft of consciousness against the Ramas Echor, with thy steed standing vigil over your body.
The Watcher: Ah, then I must be in Minas Tirith.
Man: Yes, you are correct. You enjoy the hospitality of Denethor, Steward of Gondor. Now that you are awake you can meet in auidence with him, for he is curious about you and what transpired just beyond the Wall, and eager to hear your tale.
And with that, the man bid the Watcher to follow him.
Written by The Watcher 11-29-2002 05:22 PM
As the Watcher was led through a lane of buildings and across the Curt of the Fountain he looked back into the past to see what had happened after he blacked out. He saw Z-man succumb once more to the lure of the Ring, taking it from where it lay as he mumbled about no one else being able to bear the burden.
Restraining himself from cursing allowed, The Watcher followed his guide into a great hall. It was lit by deep windows in the wide aisles at either side, beyond the rows of tall pillars that upheld the roof. Monoliths of black marble, they rose to great capitals carved in many strange figuires of easts and leaves; and far above in shadow the wide vaulting gleamed with dull gold, inset with flowing traceries of many colors. No hangings nor storied webs, nor any things of woven stuff or of wood, were to be seen in that long solemn hall; but between the pillars there stood a silent company of tall images graven in cold stone.
At the far end upon a dais of many steps was a high set throne under a canopy of marble shaped like a crowned helm; behind it was carved upon the wall and set with gems an image of a tree in flower. But the throne was empty. At the foot of the dais, upon the lowest step which was broad and deep, there was a stone chair, black and unadorned, and on it sat an old man gazing at his lap. In his hand was a white rod with a golden nob. He did not look up. Solemnly the Watcher and his guide paced the long floor towards him, until they stood three paces from his footstool.
Guide: Lord Steward, I have brought the stranger as soon as he awakened, as you bid.
Denethor: Greetings and welcome. I have been told that you were found at the site of the great tumult which was heard and seen from leauges away. Who are you and what is your tale?
Watcher: I am called The Watcher, Lord Steward, and I am a traveller and seer from a distant land. I've recently made the acquaintance of your son, Boromir, at a meeting in Rivendell.
At this the Steward raised his eyebrows. He then struck a small silver gong that stood near his footstool, and at once servants came forward.
Denethor: Bring wine and food and a seat for our guest, and see that none trouble us for one hour.
At this the servants scattered to do his bidding, and the Steward turned his attention back to the Watcher.
Denethor: So Watcher, you say you have met my son. How does he fare?
Using his powers, Watcher looked and found Boromir travelling in the company of Aragorn along the Paths of the Dead.
Watcher: He is alive and well, Lord Stewad, and is making his way toward here even as we speak.
Denethor: And what of the mighty blast at the Ramas Echor, that was heard and seen even from here, four leagues away?
Watcher: That, sir, was the end of a battle fought between myself and Mithrandir against the Black Riders.
At this the Steward looked upon him with wonder.
Denethor: What manner of being are you, that you not only contend with but triumph against such as they? Are you of Mithrandir's order, a wizard like himself?
Watcher: No, Lord Steward. I'm merely a man who was gifted with certain qualities of perception and fortitude. Gifts which allowed me to survive their onslaught. It was Mithrandir himself who managed to best the wraiths by making the best use of a terrible circumstance, and it cost him his own life to do so.
And the Watcher spent the next hour in the great hall under the piercing eye of Lord of Gondar, stabbed ever and anon by his shrewd questions. When the hour was over Denethor rang the gong again and summoned the guide who had greeted the Watcher upon awakening.
Denethor: Lead The Watcher back to the housing prepared for him.
And with that, the Watcher was led back to the building he had orignally awakened. Once he was alone, he used his communicator to inform the others of where he was and what had transpired.
Written by Tanith 11-30-2002 12:08 PM
It was at the crossroads of the that passed between Minas Tirith and the now fallen Tower of the Moon that the company of four received Watcher's call. They breathed relief on hearing that their friend was alive and well at Minas Tirith, and that the Enemy's forces had dwindled once more by a few Nazgul.
But the uncertain fate of Gandalf the Grey left the two natives of Middle Earth in worry. But the others knew that while it was hard to kill an Istari, it was harder to make one stay dead.
And so they agreed that Watcher was to stay at Minas Tirith and help out however possible there. For it seemed that Mordor would be attacking far earlier than they'd thought. He also promised to keep an eye out, with his clairsentience, for Gandalf the White, should the Valar decide to send the Istari back.
Then, the others, quite sure of Z-man's path now, followed gollum eastwards. To Minas Morgul, formerly known as Minas Ithil, the Tower of the Moon. But the Tower was not their goal, and they silently past it, keeping out of the eyes of the forces of Mordor that patroled therein, readying for war, and made for the Stairs of Cirith Ungol.
Written by Tanith 11-30-2002 12:31 PM
Upon finishing his communique with Tanith's group, The Watcher turned his Sight outwards, to observe the happenings of the city.
Fortunately, although Denethor had touched upon what he should not when he looked into the palantir, the Steward of Gondor was a true Numenorean born. He was certainly no fool, and difficult to turn even by the Dark Lord.
Throughout the city, wherever The Watcher looked, the men of Gondor were preparing for war. There was a sense of trepidation, of despair, at facing such an overwhelming force as Mordor's. But there was also a sense of conviction, of resolution, that Gondor would fight to its last man than submit to the Shadow in the East.
And there was hope.
However wane. However transient. There was hope.
Further out near the city, on the seemingly innocuous fields of Pelennor and beyond, villiage after village was being evacuated. The refugees and peasants flooded into the city, some in tears, and some in terror, and some with the solemn look of acceptance. There would be many partings on this day. And if the Valar would look down kindly upon the people of Gondor, then maybe... just maybe there will also be a day of reunion.
The watch beacons blazed in the turrets even during the light of day, telling all near and far that Gondor was in peril. They called for the allies of the White City, its vassals and neighbors: Gondor was in peril, and whatever aid that it could receive would be welcomed.
Perhaps it was a vain hope, but Watcher's sight and his memory of Middle Earth lore told him differently. Far out his Sight reached, down south on the main roads. There, he foresaw the march of the Captains of the Outlands, ranks upon ranks of troops. Ere sundown, they would reach the Gates of Minas Tirith. As each company passed the Great Gates, the people of the city would hail and cheer, at the men of the Outlands arriving to defend the City of Gondor in this dark hour -- but always too few, always less than hope looked for or need asked.
First came Forlong, the Lord of Lossarnach. Then the men of Ringlu Vale, behind the son of their lord, Dervorin, striding on foot. From the uplands of Morthond, the great Blackroot Vale, tall Duinhir with his sons, Duilin and Derufin, leading a force of bowmen. From Anfalas, the Langstrand far away, a long line of men of many sorts, hunters and hersmen and men of little villages, scantily equipped save for the household of Golasgil their lord. From Lamedon, a few grim hillmen without a captain. Fisher-folk of the Ethir, those that could be spared from their ships. Hirluin the Fair of the Green Hills from Pinnath Gelin with his troop of gallant green-clad men.
And last and proudest, Imrahil, Prince of Dol Amroth, kinsman of the Lord, with gilded banners bearing his token of the Ship and the Silver Swan, with a company of knights in full harness riding grey horses. And behind them seven hundreds of men at arms, tall as lords, grey-eyed, dark-haired, singing as they came.
All told, there were less than three thousands full. No more would come. Their cries and the tramp of their feet passed into the City and died away. The onlookers stood silent for a while. Dust hung in the air, for the wind had died and the evening was heavy. Already the closing hour was drawing night, and the red sun had gone behind Mindolluin. Night came down on the City.
Written by Tanith 11-30-2002 02:07 PM
All roads were running together to the East to meet the coming of war and the onset of the Shadow. Even as The Watcher peered through the walls of his room and saw the Prince of Dol Amroth ride in with his banners, the King of Rohan came down out of the hills.
At sunset they reached the Hold at Harrowdale, where the gathering of the rest of Rohan's forces was already well underway. There, before the Hold, they were met by Eowyn, her long hair gleaming in the twilight, and clad to the waist like a warrior. Gladly she welcomed the return of her king, though her gladness was mixed with woe; for Aragorn, king of men, had passed into the Paths of the Dead.
Scarce had the Riders and their lord sat down for the night's repast, when a messenger arrived from the east. Hirgon, a errand-rider of Gondor, brought with him a token of war, as well as the plea for all of Rohan's strength and speed, lest Gondor fall at last.
"The Red Arrow!" cried Theoden, holding it as one who receives a summons long expected and yet dreadful when received. His hand trembled as he held it. "The Red Arrow has not been seen in the Mark in all my years! Has it indeed come to that? And what does the Lord Denethor reckon that all my strength and all my speed may be?"
"That is best know to yourself, lord," said Hirgon the messenger. "But ere long it may well be that Minas Tirith is surrounded, and unless you have the strength to break a seige of many powers, the Lord Denethor bids me say that he judges that the strong arms of the Rohirrim would be better within his walls than without."
Upon questioning the man for more tidings of the East, Theoden finally gave his pledge. "We will come. The weapontake was set for the morrow of a day hence. Six thousands at the least shall ride beind me. Say to Denethor that in this hour the King of the Mark himself will come down to the land of Gondor, though maybe he will not ride back. But it is a long road; a week it may be from that morn ere you hear the cry of the Sons of Eorl coming from the North."
"A week!" cried Hirgon. "If it must be so, it must. But you are like to find only ruined walls in seven days from now, unless other help unlooked-for comes."
"Nay, my lords, if 'tis haste that thee seek, then from aid unlooked for shall thee receive it!"
Both men turned in surprise, as a tall form approached them and threw back the hood of its Lothlorien-woven cloak. There, Arwen the daughter of Elrond, Evenstar of her people, stood before the lords of the Mark and the messenger of Gondor. Bright were her eyes, that shone with the light of a thousand stars, and her beauty took the breaths of all men that stood present, so that they bowed before her in awe and worship.
"My lady," asked Eomer after a moment of awed silence. "What do you mean by your words? What magic of Luthien may bring us to our goal before the week has passed?"
"I am not Luthien, my lord," replied Arwen softly, with a voice of nightgales in song. "Nor the art I speak of the magic of the Elves. It is from the Outworldly allies of the West, three of whom have aided thee at Helm's Deep, that I bring this aid. Through their arts, I can deliver thee and thy men to but a day's ride from the White City, upon the selfsame day that thee depart from here."
A awed murmur grew in the hall upon the lady's words. If any other save Gandalf had spoken of it, such promises would likely be distrusted as workings of the Shadow. But with the purity of light that shone from within the lady Undomiel, no man could conceive her words to be any less but a blessing from Eru himself.
"Then it shall be as you say, Lady" announced Theoden as he bowed to the Lady of Rivendell. And with that, the time for repast was over, and the Riders each sought their rest.
Written by Tanith 11-30-2002 02:07 PM
As it was, it fell upon the duty of the Lady Eowyn to lead Arwen Undomiel to her chambers. As they reached it, the Lady of Rohan paused at the door, not willing to depart, and yet not knowing what to say to the fair lady Arwen.
With the keen perception of the Elves, Arwen felt her reticence; and so softly spoke to her. "Enter and speak with me, Lady of Rohan. For I perceive that you would have words for me."
Relieved, Eowyn entered the room and sat across the lady Arwen upon a wooden chair. Trembling with effort, she raised her eyes to meet the flickering starlight that looked warmly upon her.
"Did you fight too, my lady, at the battle of Helm's Deep?" she asked of the elven princess. "Did you wield arms alongside the Riders of Rohan?"
"I fought at that battle, at the first lights of dawn," answered Arwen. "Alongside my brothers Elladan and Elrohir, who have since ridden on with the Dunedain of the North. It is not the custom of my father the Lord of Imladris that any of his children be without the means to defend themselves from harm."
Smiling, Arwen's glimmering eyes seemed to look deep into Eowyn's heart. "But are you not the same, my lady?" she asked gently, "a shieldmaiden who does not fear to wield steel in times of need?"
"I am," sighed Eowyn, with more than a hint of bitterness to her tone. "And yet the King would bade me to remain behind. To see to the running of the Hold than with him on the battlefield. I fear he does not have the same faith in my arm than the Lord of Rivendell does of you, lady."
Arwen laughed then, a gentle laugh with no mockery in it, that bubbled like the brooks of clear water in the first warmth of spring. "Say not so, my lady," she said. "My father was far from pleased when I spoke of my desire to ride forth with my brothers. He would have forbidden me to come, were it not for my brothers speaking for my behalf, and my own love for my beloved that would not be denied."
"And yet..." The laughter faded from Arwen's eyes, to be replaced by deep sympathy. Eowyn looked away from those sad eyes, unable to bear their look. Arwen paused and continued speaking with her soothing voice, "... and yet Imladris is not the Mark. My father and his forces yet remain behind, to protect the Last Homely Home from the Shadows in the North. That is not so here."
"You speak truly, my lady," murmured Eowyn. "And my mind would heed it, but for the torment of my heart. This city is as a cage, my lady. I fear I cannot bear it."
Sighing, and still unwiling to face the sadness of the eyes before her or her own conflicting feelings, Eowyn attempted to change the subject. "What of this love you speak of, lady?" she asked with a forced smile. "Who among the defenders of the Helm had caught your fancy? Was it one of the strangers, whose wondrous arts you are now privy to? Or was it one of the men from Gondor..." Suddenly, she trailed off, a chill sweeping through her as she heard what she herself just said.
But Arwen did not notice, for her eyes had left the Lady before her. They looked instead into the empty air, shining ever brighter than before as they recalled their love.
"Ah... I came for my dear Estel, for that was the name the Elves gave to him as he grew up in my father's house." Arwen's voice, before clear as the moutain streams, now became dreamy as the morning mist. "To the Dunedain of the North, he was their chief, the ranger called Strider. But now... now he has come to his heritage and taken up his destiny. He is Aragorn, the son of Arathorn, and the heir of Elendil of Elros' line."
Eowyn closed her eyes in pain as she heard this, and now she perceived that her own fancy for the lord Aragorn was all for naught. For what man would choose a mere daughter of Man for the bright star that was the Undomiel? But try as she might, she could not hate them. Neither the lordly heir of Isildur, who she feared she had given her heart to in vain; nor the beauteous lady Arwen, who was so far above any mortal maid that no jealousy could come from the comparison.
"My lady..." Eowyn's voice trembled as she addressed the still dreamy elven lady. "My lady, it pains me to speak of this, but the Lord Aragorn... I fear his own doom has drawn nigh." She took a shuddering breath, before steeling herself for the news. "He rode out upon the Paths of the Dead. I fear..." She choked on the last word, unable to continue.
Arwen shook herself of her trance and tried to reassure Eowyn. "Fear not, my lady. For I have faith that no harm shall befall my love on that path. It was my father himself who asked of my brothers to bespeak him of that path. And while the Paths of the Dead may have been closed to mortal men in days of past, the prophecized time has come, and Estel will win the way."
"I wish I had your assurance, lady," said Eowyn quietly. She looked up to meet Arwen's eyes once more, and was hard pressed not to turn away again quickly. For there was a sad understanding there, deep in those starlit eyes that saw deep into her and knew all the secrets that she did not utter aloud.
She needed to get away. Abruptly, Eowyn stood from her chair. "I must attend to my duties now, my lady," she said quickly. "I bid you a good night."
So saying, she all but fled the room, all the while feeling the sad and knowing gaze of the Lady of Rivendell behind her.
Written by The Watcher 12-01-2002 02:43 AM
The Watcher made his way stealthily from his lodgings to the White Tower, hidden from sight thanks to his Predator Cloaking Field. Knowing that through Sauron's influence the palantir would drive Denethor to madness, he was resolved to prevent that occuring. He decided to nip the problem in the bud before it took its heavy toll on the Steward.
Making his way up the tower, The Watcher came to the secret room in the summit, where the palantir was kept. He slipped into the room, where he saw Denethor's face illuminated by the pale glow of the scrying stone. After first quietly locking the door behind him, he decloaked and cleared his throat to get the Steward's attention.
Denethor: How dare you trespass into this chamber! I did not give you leave to come here! How did you even know the way?
Watcher: I apologize for the infraction, Lord Steward, but I only trespass out of concern for your welfare. As for how I found this room, I did say I am a seer. I see things beyond the view of mere eyes.
Denethor: And just what causes you to fear for my welfare, seer?
Watcher: The palantir, sir. You can not continue to use it. It's dangerous. The Dark Lord has influence over it.
Denethor: You mean dangerous to your plans. My mind is too strong to be dominated by the Eye. Do not attempt to deceive me. You are not the only one with the gift of sight. I have seen many things, Watcher. Such as the alleged King you outworlders seek to put upon the Throne. And the doom of both him and my son!
Watcher: Plans? I have no plans except to stop Sauron and Mordor. And what do you mean by your son's doom?
Denethor: I have seen it here with the Palantir! Boromir chose to follow this "King" onto the Paths of the Dead, where no mortal man may tread on and return. Your outworlder plot to set him upon the throne is now undone, though no comfort to me with the loss of my son.
Watcher: Lord Steward, Aragorn is the rightful King, not some puppet of ours. Your son is alive and will arrive here in a day or two. This stone is the one that deceives you, not I.
Denethor: The palantir does not lie. The view seen are those of true sights. My son is gone, lost to me when he set foot on the lethal course your claimant led him on.
Watcher: Lord Steward, the greatest falsehoods are those which employ truth in them. It's true the palantir only shows true sights, but the Dark Lord has sway over it. He allows it to only show you the worst of what's true, to slowly wear down the spirit he can not dominate.
Denethor: Your manner and words seem sincere, but how do I know what you state about my son's fate is true. Even if you do not deceive, you may be the one mistaken. As you said, the palantir does not lie. I have seen my Boromir start upon the Paths of the Dead, and no living man ever returns from them.
Watcher: That may be true in the past, but I know for a fact that Aragorn shall lead him safely back to Minas Tirith. Even now he approaches the city, alive and well.
Denethor: If only I had some proof of your claim, that it would lift the shadow of grief that's fallen over my heart.
Watcher: Perhaps I can give you the proof you need.
Using his powers, the Watcher located Boromir on the decks of a ship sailing down the Anduin. Moving to the window, he used his powers to compress the distance between the tower and the ship, while using the Telesthia aspect of his Clairsentience to give himself telescopic vision.
Watcher: Lord Steward, could you come over here.
Denethor, curious about Watcher's request, did as he asked.
Watcher: Look over there and what do you see?
Denethor did so, and to his surprise saw Boromir sailing down the Anduin.
Denethor: He's alive! But how am I able to spy him from such a distance? Even my eyesight is not normally that sharp.
Watcher: One of my gifts is the ability to make long distances shorter, Lord Steward. I managed to do so enough to allow you to see him with your own eyes.
Denethor: Watcher, my gratitude for changing my grief to joy. I am sorry I doubted the truth of your claims. And as for the palantir, I shall not use that deceiving stone again.
Watcher: I'm glad I was able to convince you. But I wouldn't hold a party just yet. The enemy approaches also.
Denethor: But now I can face them with hope instead of despair. A great service you have done me, Watcher.
Watcher: It was the least I can do.
And with that the two men left the room, leaving the palantir behind them.
Written by Tanith 12-01-2002 12:44 PM
The next morning, The Watcher stood atop the battlements of Minas Tirith, accompanied by his guide, a guard named Beregond. They were speaking of the tidings of war, when all of a sudden, the man before him froze. A cry pierced the air -- a cry that Watcher knew well indeed.
Following the man's terrified gaze, he looked out over the wall, across the Pelennor fields. There, wheeling swiftly across the Great River, like shadows of untimely night, were three birdlike forms, horrible as carrion-fowl yet greater than eagles. Cruel as death, they swooped near, venturing almost within bowshot of the walls, and then circling away.
"Nazgul!" muttered Watcher. "The Black Riders!" He scrutinized their flight, the only one not affected by the aura of fear they cast upon the men around him. "They are looking for something," he realized aloud, then turned to Beregond beside him, who seemed to be recovering from the fear. "See how they wheel and swoop, always down to... to that point over there!"
Beregond squinted out toward where Watcher pointed. "There's something moving on the ground there," he said. "Dark little things."
"Yes, men on horses," replied Watcher as he used his gift of clairsentience. "They bear the standard of Gondor, and they have the appearance of Rangers of the wild."
Another long screech rose and fell, and Beregon flinched back as if physically struck. Faint and seemingly remote through that shuddering cry they heard winding up from below the sound of a trumpet ending on a long high note.
"Faramir! The Lord Faramir! It is his call!" cried Beregond. "Brave heart! But how can he win to the Gate, if these foul hell-hawks have other weapons than fear? But look! They hold on. They will make the Gate. No! the horses are running mad! The men are thrown; they are running on foot. One is still up, but he rides back to the others. That will be the Captain: he can master both beasts and men. Ah! there one of the foul things is stooping on him. Help! help! Will no one go out to him? Faramir!"
Watcher's mind raced, as he wondered if he could use his powers to aid the men below. At that moment, he suddenly caught a flash of white and silver coming from the North, like a small star down from the heavens. It moved with the speed of an arrow and grew as it came, converging swiftly with the four men and their harriers. It seemed to the men on the wall that a pale light was spread about it and the heavy shadows gave away before it.
And then, as it drew near, another cry pierced the air. Not the fear-inducing screeching of the servants of Mordor. This was the call of the servant of Manwe. Of the Great Eagles of the North.
"Gandalf!" he cried, even as his visions confirmed it. "Ha! He returns."
His exhultation was taken up by the soldiers on the wall as well, all of them forgetting their lord's grudge against the former Grey Pilgrim. "Gandalf!" they cried. "He always turn up when things are darkest. Go on! Go on, White Rider!" they shounted wildly, like an onlooker at a great race uring on a runner who is far beyond encouragement.
Now the dark swooping shadows were aware of the newcomer. One wheeled towards him. But Gandalf raised his hand, and from it a shaft of white light stabbed outwards. The Nazgul gave a long wailing cry and swerved away. And with that the two others wavered, and then rising in swift spirals the passed away eastward, vanishing into the lowering cloud above; and down on the Pelennor it seemed for a while less dark.
As the men on the city looked on in wonderment, Gandalf landed and bid farewell to the great bird that had carried him. There he waited for those on foot. A streak of white also raced across the fields toward him -- Shadowfax, chief of horses, who had not suffered himself to be captured by the men of Gondor after Gandalfs 'death'.
Men now hurried out to the group from the City, and soon they all passed from normal sight under the outer walls. Watcher was sure that they would come at once to the Tower and the Steward, and he hurried there to join them.
There, he met Faramir, the elder son of Denethor, for the first time. The man's head was bowed, and he swayed a little as a weary or wounded man. When he lifted his head, he finally showed the face of one who has been assailed by a great fear or anguish, but has mastered it and now is quiet. Proud and grave he stood for a moment as he spoke to the guard. As he looked around, his eyes flashed in surprised as it alighted for a moment on The Watcher, as if in recognition.
Taking leave of the relieved onlookers and guards, the three of them -- Gandalf, Faramir, and The Watcher -- were summoned to a closed council session with Denethor. There, Gandalf spoke in veiled words of his return from the Halls of Mandos. And Faramir reported on the closing forces of Mordor.
And then, matters turned to that of the defense of the City. Watcher's Sight revealed that the reinforcements from Rohan and from the Anduin would not arrive for some time yet, perhaps not until nightfall. Gandalf agreed with him from what he saw from the Eagle's vantage in the air.
Finally, Denethor sighed and turned to Faramir. "What think you of the garrison at Osgiliath?"
"It is not strong," replied his son. "I have sent the company of Ithilien to strengthen it."
"Not enough, I deem," said Denethor. "It is there that the first blow will fall. They will have need of some stout captain there."
"There and elsewhere in many places," said Faramir. He rose. "May I have your leave, father?" And then he swayed and leaned upon his father's chair.
"You are weary, I see," said Denethor. "You have ridden fast and far, and under shadows of evil in the air, I am told."
"Let us not speak of that!" said Faramir, shuddering.
"Then we will not," said Denethor, not unkindly. "Go now and rest as you may. I fear the call of the council will have need of your services far too soon."
And so early that morning - the last morning that would see the sun - the Council was hastily summoned. There all the captains judged that because of the threat in the South their force was too weak to make any stroke of war on their own part, unless the Riders of Rohan arrive. Meanwhile they must man the walls and wait.
But Denethor was the master of his Council, and he was in no mood that day to bow to others. He would not lightly abandon the outer defences. And he knew that it would be at Osgiliath that Sauron would put the weight of his forces, as before when Boromir denied him the passage. And so Faramir was sent out again.
That evening, the first of ill news came. Even as dark clouds emerged from the depths of Mordor, stifling all light from the heavens, a messenger rode in haste fro the fords. A host had issued forth from Minas Morgul and was already drawing nigh to Osgiliath; and it had been joined by regiments from the South, by Haradrim, cruel and tall. Moreover, a Black Captain leads them once again, and the fear of him has passed before him over the River.
Written by Tanith 12-01-2002 12:50 PM
Morning in Rohan.
Or, at least... what *should* have been morning.
The fair Lady of Rivendell, Arwen Undomiel, stood upon the terraces of the Hold, looking worriedly into the darkned heavens. The only light came from the torches of the Hold and from her glimmering eyes, for no light came from the skies -- neither the shining beacons of Elbereth nor the golden warmth of Anor the sun.
"The Sun has not risen yet," she murmured to Theoden who stood beside her, also looking worriedly at the skies as the men of Rohan mustered below in the fields.
"Nor ever again, I fear," said the king morosely, "under this cloud." But he shook off his despair, though deep it touched him. "But time does not stand still, though the Sun be lost." Thus said, he took leave of the terrace steps to join the last of his men, calling as he went, "Make haste!"
Arwen sighed and looked out to the land before her. The world was darkling. The very air seemed brown, and all things about were black and grey and shadowless. There was a great stillness. No shape of cloud could be seen, unless it were far away westward, where the furthest groping fingers of the great gloom still crawled onwards and a little light leaked through them.
"It comes from Mordor," said Hirgon the messenger, who still stood with Eomer atop the terrace. "It began last night at sunset. From the hills in the Eastfold of Rohan I saw it rise and creep across the sky, and all night as I rode it came behind eating up the stars. Now the great cloud hangs over all the land between here and the Mountains of Shadow; and it is deepening. War has already begun."
Eomer sighed, as his uncle had before him. "So we come to it in the end," he said, "the great battle of our time, in which many things shall pass away. But at least there is no longer need for hiding. I can only hope that Rohan and Gondor will endure this dark day."
"The lady Eowyn does not ride with thee?" Arwen suddenly asked.
Eomer appeared startled by the sudden shift in conversation. "Nay, my lady," he replied. "She has been charged to oversee the Hold as we ride forth."
He then squinted as Theoden motioned at him from below. "The king calls me. I shall call the heralds. And the Riders shall be marshalled. By your grace, my lady."
And so the two men left the terrace also, leaving Arwen alone to contemplate the skies, only paying half attention to the commotions below her.
"You do not ride with the Mark, my lady?" a voice asked from behind her at length.
The lady Undomiel turned, to see a young soldier standing behind her, one less in height and girth than most. She caught the glint of clear grey eyes, and almost shivered, for it seemed to her the face of one without hope who goes in search of death.
"Nay, I do not," she replied softly to the soldier's question. "Upon the departure of the Riders, I shall make my way to the Golden Wood of Lothlorien, and there await my doom, be it in Shadow or in Light."
The grey eyes within the helm widened in surprise, then quickly suppressed it. "You would ride alone?" came the incredulous question. "That is not wise in this dark day, lady."
"I am not unable to protect myself," answered Arwen as she peered closer into those grey eyes. "The art that shall deliver the Mark to the lands of Gondor shall bear me to the edge of the wood. There, the Lady Galadriel holds sway over the land, and I shall be safe."
"I.... see..." The soldier suddenly seemed unable, or perhaps unwilling to meet Arwen's eyes. The elven princess seemed to consider the 'young man' before her for a moment, before realization flashed across them.
"And what are you called?" she asked, as a sadness seemed to fall across her eyes.
The soldier looked up again, as if startled. "I am called... Dernhelm." The sound of trumpets interrupted them for a moment. "...and I need to go. My lady." The soldier bowed and made as if to leave.
But Arwen stayed 'him' with a gentle hand upon the arm. "I would ask one favor of thee, then, sir knight."
The soldier hesitated before nodding, looking up to meet bright eyes that held equal parts of sympathy and mischief, of sorrow and understanding.
"Bring word to my lord," Arwen said softly. "Tell him that my heart and hope shall ever be with him from beneath the eaves of Calas Galadhon." And with that, she pressed a slender elf-sword into the hands of the soldier. "May this protect thee and thine... shieldmaiden."
The soldier stiffened, then nodded brusquely, before taking leave once more to join the marshalling of Rohan's forces. Arwen looked sadly after the departing form, and whispered as if to herself. "And may you find your own peace and hope in the darkness of war, Lady of Rohan."
In no time at all, the muster was ready. Arwen took out the communicator that had been given to the Lord of Rivendell before the Three Companies set out from it, and spoke through it as she was taught to the Starship that hovered beyond the clouds.
The Andromeda answered the call. And though the black clouds of Mordor blocked the light of the heavens from mortal sight, it hindered not the technology that came from beyond the Void. With a shimmer, the vast forces of Rohan dissappeared from before the Hold, displaced into the land of Gondor. There, they raced to the aid of Minas Tirith, in hope that they would not be too late.
Written by Tanith 12-01-2002 03:09 PM
In the dawnless morning, at Minas Tirith, ill news came again. The passage of Anduin was won by the Enemy. Faramir was retreating to the wall of the Pelennor, rallying his men to the Causeway Forts; but he was ten times outnumbered.
"I am needed there more than here," said Gandalf, and rode off at once. Watcher insisted on accompanying him, for he knew what fate had in store for Faramir, and hoped that he could forestall it.
The bells of day had scarcely rung out again, am mockery in the unlightened dark, when far away fires sprang up, across in the dim spaces where the walls of the Pelennor stood. The watchment cried aloud, and all men in the City stood to arms.
"They have taken the wall!" men cried. "They are blasting breaches in it. They are coming!"
It was Gandalf that brought back the first tidings, with a handful of horsemen as escort to a line of wains filled with wounded men from the wreck of the Causeway Forts. At once he went to Denethor in his high chamber.
"Is Faramir come?" he asked.
"Nay," said Gandalf. "But he still lived when I left him, fighting with the outlander, whose fiery steed served now to keep the Black Riders at bay. Your son is resolved to stay with the rearguard, lest the retreat over the Pelennor becomes a rout. He may, perhaps, hold his men together long enough, but I doubt it. He is pitted against a foe too great, for Sauron has replaced the Witchking, the now fallen King of Angmar, with a Black Numenorean, one who was his Mouth at the Black Gate."
"Then, Mithrandir, you have a foe to match you," said Denethor, half mockingly.
Gandalf ignored the jibe. "Nay, I came rather to guard the hurt men that can yet be healed; for the Rammas is breached far and wide, and soon the host of Morgul will enter in at many points. And I came chiefly to say this. Soon there will be battle on the fields. A sortie must be made ready."
Time passed. At length the watchers on the walls could see the retreat of the out-companies. When the main retreat was scarcely two furlongs distant, out of the gloom a small company of horsemen galloped, all that was left of the rearguard. Once more they turned at bay, facing the oncoming lines of fire.
Then suddenly there was a tumult of fierce cries. Horsement of the enemy swept up. The lines of fire became flowing torrents or orcs and wild Southron men. And with a piercing cry fell the Nazgul from the dim sky, swooping in for the kill. The retreat became a rout.
A trumpet rang from the Citadel, and Denethor at last released the sortie. All the mounted men that were left in the city sprang forward out of the city and charged with a great shout. Foremost rode the swan-knights of Dol Amroth with their Prince.
Like thunder they broke upon the enemy on either flank of the retreat. Yet one rider outran them all, swift as the wind. Shadowfax bore him, shining and unveiled once more, a light starting from his upraised hand at the swooping Nazgul.
But Denethor did not permit them to go far. Again the trumpet rang, sounding the retreat. The cavalry of Gondor halted. Behind their screen the out-companies reformed and marched back. Proudly the people of the City looked on them, and yet they were troubled. Faramir had lost a third of his men... and where was he?
Last of all he came. The mounted knights returned, and at their rear the banner of Dol Amroth, and the Prince. Beside him the outworlder rode on a steed that burned with white fire. In the arms of Imrahil he bore the body of his kinsman, Faramir son of Denethor, stricken by a fell dart of the Nazgul even as the Nazgul had swerved aside from Gandalf's charge.
The Prince Imrahil brought Faramir to the White Tower, and he said: "Your son has returned, lord, after great deeds."
But Denethor rose and looked upon the face of his son and was silent. He bade them to make a bed in the chamber and lay Faramir upon it and depart. But he himself sat beside him without speaking.
So now the at last the City was besieged, enclosed in a ring of foes. The enemy gathered upon the fields of Pelennor. There they brought forth monstrous engines for the casting of missiles. But the engines did not waste shot upon the indomitable wall of Gondor. Rather, they began to throw missiles marvellously high, so that they passed right above the battlement and fell within the first circle of the City; and many of them by some secret art burst into flame as they came toppling down.
But this was one threat the The Watcher knew how to handle. He had been too late to save Faramir from his doom, but he would not fail the civilians and guardians of the White City. From the upper-most turrets of the city he cast forth all his power, folding the very fabric of space around the City. There, the empty air itself thickened into an invisible and impenetrable shield, stretching far above the walls unto the edge of his sight. There, he held it, tirelessly.
The men of the City marvelled at this miracle. Many thought it the craft of Gandalf's wizardry. He did not disabuse them of the notion, though he did take command of the last defence of the City, for Denethor yet grieved at the side of his son. With him went the Prince of Dol Amroth in his shining mail.
As the burning missiles of the Enemy hit the invisible shields around the City, the orcs screamed and quailed at the strange miracle. The drums rolled louder. Fires leaped up. Greate engines hauled forth a huge ram, long forged in the dark smithies of Mordor. Its head was shaped in the likeness of a ravening wolf in black steel. On it spells of ruin lay. Grond they named it, in memory of the Hammer of the Underworld of old. Great beasts drew it, and behind walked mountain-trolls to wield it.
With a vast rush, Grond was hurled forward by huge hands. A deep boom rumbled through the earth and the city as it struck the spatial shields. The folds began to unravel before the foul magic of the ram, and Watcher was hard pressed to repair it.
Then the Black Captain came and rose in his stirrups. He cried aloud in a dreadful voice, speaking in some forgotten tongue words of power and terror to rend both heart and stone. Thrice he cried. Thrice the great ram boomed. And if it had been but the unshielded Gate of Gondor that it had struck, the great gate would have fallen.
But Watcher was no stranger to the dark arts of magic. Nor to the terror-wails of the Nazgul. And despite it all, and with all of his Immutable strength, he kept the shields.
Atop the gate there stood only one figure, robed in white. For all others had fled at the horror of the Black Captain. With a booming voice, Gandalf the White addressed the Black Captain. "You cannot enter here! Go back to the abyss prepared for you! Fall into the nothingness that awaits you and your Master. Go!"
The Black Rider flung back his hood and railed at the Istari and the shield that foiled it. "Old fool!" he cried. "This is my hour. Do you not know Death when you see it? Come down and meet me!" With that he lifted high his sword and flames ran down the blade.
Gandalf did not move. In that very moment, there came from far away a note.
Horns... horns... horns!
In the dark Mindolluim's sides they dimly echoed. Great horns of the North wildly blowing. Rohan had come at last.
Written by Tanith 12-01-2002 04:23 PM
Eomer led the first charge onto the edge of the orc encampments surrounding Minas Tirith, taking the orcish forces gathered there by surprise. Silently, the Riders moved forward, the front ranks killing all that they came across. And they waited for the signal of the king.
From the direction of the City, there came a loud boom. Then another. And the third the loudest of them all. As soon as the echoes of the third boom died down, Theoden suddenly rose in his stirrups. He cried aloud, in a voice clearer than any there had ever heard a mortal man achieve before:
"Arise, arise, Riders of Theoden!
Fell deeds awake: fire and slaughter!
spear shall be shaken, shield be splintered,
a sword-day, a red day, ere the sun rises!
Ride now, ride now! Ride to Gondor!"
With that he seized a great horn from his banner-bearer, and blew such a blast upon it that it burst asunder. Straightway all the horns in the host were lifted up in music, and the blowing of the horns of Rohan in that hour was like a storm upon the plain and a thunder in the mountains.
The Ride of the Rohirrim swept onto the Pelennor fields. The hosts of Mordor wailed, and terror took them, and the hoofs of wrath rode over them. At the Gates of the City, The new Lord of the Nazgul cried in outrage as fortune betrayed him. But he was still in command, wielding great powers and many weapons. He left the Gate and vanished.
Just as Theoden slew the chieftain of the Haradhrim of the South, the Lord of the Nazgul suddenly descended upon him from the dim skies. Darkness fell about him. Horses reared and screamed. Men cast from the saddle lay grovelling on the ground.
"To me! To me!" cried Theoden. "Up Eorlingas! Fear no darkness!" But his steed Snowmane was wild with terror, and with it great scream he crased aside, pierced by a black dart. The king fell with him.
But Theoden was not utterly forsaken. Even as the knights of his house lay slain around him or remained held back by their fear of the Black Rider and its great winged mount, there yet one stood there still. Dernhelm the young, faithful beyond fear, who stood between the Black Rider and his fallen lord.
"Come not between the Nazgul and his prey!" hissed the Nazgul as it swooped down on its winged mount..
Dernhelm did not reply. With teary eyes the soldier charged the descending Black Rider. A swift stroke he dealt, skilled and deadly. The outstretched neck of the horrible beast she clove asunder, and the hewn head fell like stone. Back he sprang as the huge shape crashed to ruin, vast wings outspread, and crumpled on the earth.
Out of the wreck rose the Black Rider, tall and threatening. With a cry of hatred, the blade of the Nazgul let fall his mace, snapping both Dernhelm's shield and sword and bodily tossing the slight form aside. Dernhelm fell heavily to the side, and lay still there as if in a swoon or dead. His helmet came loose, and long bright hair spilled forth, revealing that Dernhelm was indeed the Lady Eowyn, who had in secret followed into war. The sword in her hands blackened and cracked, destroyed by the foul magic of the morgul blade.
Thinking the fallen maiden dead, the Nazgul approached the fallen king of Rohan, intent upon finishing his work. Thus it was that he did not see Eowyn rising once more from where she fell, her eyes clear of torment or fear. As if in a trance she drew forth the elven-blade that the Lady Arwen had gifted her, and in silence sprang upon the Black Rider from behind. With her last strength she drove the blade between crown and mantle.
The sword crackled. The crown rolled away with a clang. Eowyn fell forward upon her fallen foe. But lo! the mantle and hauberk were empty. Shapeless they lay now on the ground, torn and tumbled; and a great cry went up into the shuddering air. And faded to a shrill wailing, passing with the wind. A voice bodiless and thin that died, and was swallowed up, never to be heard again.
Even as Eowyn crawled over to her king with the last of her strength, she heard the sound of horns and trumpets. New forces of the enemy were hastening up the road from the River. And out of the City came all the strength of men that was in it, with the silver swan of Dol Amroth before it, driving the enmy from the Gate.
She saw her brother Eomer ride toward her, but another steed, one blazing with cleansing fire, reached her first. From it dismounted one of the outworld strangers alike to those that had set off with Aragorn. He approached them, holding a box-like object in his hands. He passed it over Eowyn, and then Theoden, and frowned over the latter. From somewhere she could not see, the stranger withdrew a slender tube of glass and steel, and pressed it against the side of her king's neck.
Eowyn made to intervene, but her strength had left her. The last that reached her was a soft hiss from the tube, before darkness claimed her vision.
Written by Tanith 12-01-2002 05:35 PM
Watcher put away his hypospray just as Eomer and his men reached him. Weeping, the young prince of the Rohirrim stared in horror at the sight.
"Theoden King! Theoden King!" lamented the men.
"Eowyn! Eowyn! What madness or devilry is this?" cried Eomer. "Death, death, death! Death take us all!"
Concerned over the fey mood that had befallen the now leader of the forces of Rohan, Watcher hurried to allay their fears. "They are not dead," he told them. "Though I cannot cure them from the black magic of the Nazgul, I can keep them alive. There may yet be hope for them in the Houses of Healing within the City."
Relieved beyond measure, the Rohirrim swept up the two fallen forms and bore them toward the city. On the way they passed the emerging forces of Gondor, led by Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth. And not too soon came their aid, for fortune had turned agains the Rohirrim.
Out on the fields of the Pelennor horns and trumpets were braying, and the mymakil were bellowing as they were goaded to war. And wherever those creatures came there the horses would not go, but blenched and swerved away. The Haradhrim rallied around them, and new strength streamed forth from Osgiliath: Easterlings with axes, and Variags of Khand. Southrons in scarlet, and out of Far Harad black men like half-trolls with white eyes and red tongues.
It was even as the darkened day thus began to turn against Gondor, and their hope wavered, that anew cry went up in the City. The watchmen on the wall saw afar a new sight of fear, and their last hope left them.
From far down the river Anduin came a fleet borne up on the wind, black against the dark stream. Dromunds, and ships of great, drawn with many oars, and with black sails bellying in the breeze.
"The Corsairs of Umbar!" men shouted. "Look! The Corsairs of Umbar are coming! So Belfalas is taken, and the Ethir, and Lebennin is gone. The Corsairs are upon us! It is the last stroke of doom!"
The Rohirrim on the field had no need of news of alarm. All too well they could see for themselves the black sails. For Eomer was now scarely a mile from the river. Now he looked to the ships, and hope died in his heart. But the hosts of Mordor were enheartened, and filled with a new lust and fury they came yelling to the onset.
Stern now was Eormer's mod, and his mind clear. He let blow the horns to rally all men to his banner that could come hither; for he thought to make a great shield-wall at the last, and stand, and fight there on foot til all fell. Once more the lust of battle was on him. And lo! even as he laughed at despair he looked out again on the black ships, and he lifted up his sword to defy them.
But then wonder took him, and a great joy. He cast his sword up in the air and sang as he caught it. All eyes followed his gaze, and behold! upon the foremost ship a great standard broke, and the wind displayed it as she turned towards the haven of Harlond.
With a great crack the skies suddenly opened. The thick clouds of Mordor broken by the skill and invention of the Andromeda's AI. As in Helm's Deep, the first golden rays of morning lanced down from the vault of heaven, driving back the darkness over the field.
Upon the banner that was now revealed to all eyes, there flowered a White Tree, and that was for Gondor. But Seven Stars were about it, and a high crown above it -- the signs of Elendil that no lord had borne for years beyond count. And the stars flamed in the sunlight, for they were wrought of gems by Arwen daughter of Elrond; and the crown was bright in the morning, for it was wrought of mithril and gold.
Thus came Aragorn, son of Arathorn, Elessar, Isildur's heir, out of the Paths of the Dead, borne upon a wind from the Sea to the kingdom of Gondor. The mirth of the Rohirrim was a torrent of laught and a flashing of swords. The joy and wonder of the City was a music of trumpets and a ringing of bells.
But the hosts of Mordor were seized with bewilderment, and a great wizardry it seemed to them that their own ships should be filled with their foes. A black dread fell on them, knowing that the tides of fate had turned against them and their doom was at hand.
East rode the knights of Dol Amroth, driving the enemy before them: troll-men and Variags and orcs that hated the sunlight. South strode Eomer and the wild men fled before his face, caught between the hammer and the anvil. Men leaped from the black ships to the quays of the Harlond and swept north like a storm.
There came the Elladan and Elrohir wit stars on their brow, and Halbarad with the standard, and the three friends that The Watcher had long seen approaching those shores, and the dour-handed Rangers of the North, and Boromir, son of the Steward of the City.... But before all went Aragorn with the Flame of the West, Anduril like a new fire kindled, Narsil re-forged, as deadly as of old. And upon his brow was the Star of Elendil.
At length Eomer and Aragorn met in the midst of the battle. "Thus we meet again, though all the hosts of Mordor lay between us," said Aragorn. "Did I not say so at the Hornburg?"
"So you spoke," said Eomer, "but hope oft deceives, and I knew not then that you were a man foresighted. Yet twice blessed is help unlooked for, and never was a meeting of friends more joyful." The clasped hands. "you come none too soon, my friend. Much loss and sorrow has befallen us."
"Then let us avenge it, ere we speak of it!" said Aragorn, and they rode back to battle together.
Written by Metaphysician 12-01-2002 06:36 PM
Meta: "Hurry. Pass through these doorways to bolster the defenses. The wounded shall be passed back through that one. Arrows, weapons, go through there. We are outnumbered 10 to 1; we must make sure all our forces are where they are needed. Hurry!!"
*As Meta struggles to maintain the field. . .*
Meta: "Damn. Anti-teleportation jamming is making this tough. Must concentrate. . . Damn it!! If only this place's metaphysics didn't wreak havok with my space warping as is, this battle would be over already!!"
Written by Mg_knt 12-01-2002 07:20 PM
Mg:"Rommie can you project an illusion of a host of Serra Angels."
*Mg resumed looking as a host of angles clad in bright golden armor appeared in the sky. The hosts of Mordor screamed and broke in panic.*
Mg:"A nice little diversion wouldn't you say Writerboy?"
*The sound of battle reached the top of the fortress. Orders were shouted, the screams of the wounded and dieing, and the clash of iron on iron all were heard. *
Mg:"Well, I think it is time we head down to the frontlines Writerboy."
Written by WriterBoy 12-02-2002 12:49 PM
WriterBoy touched down and was immediately besieged by a troop of orcs. With a wave he sent them flying into their comrades' outstrectched spears. With this bought time, he picked up a fallen soldier's blade and put to use the rudimentary swordfighting skills he'd picked up from Boromir and Argaron during the trip on the Paths of the Dead. Slowly, he made his way through the hordes to the giant bludgeon that assailed the doors of Minas Tirith. When he was in range, he picked up every spare weapon he could find with his telekinesis and thrust them into the throats, chests, and brains of the great mountain trolls wielding the battering ram. The beasts cried out, then fell.
"Now for the fun part." Gesturing, he picked up the great siege weapon, and directed it towards the hordes of orcs and men assailing the White City. Entire platoons fell as one as the weapon swung in midair like a baseball bat.
WriterBoy let loose a battle cry, the best he could think of. "Washington! Washington for the Stars and Stripes!" I'll ahve to work on that one, he thought. He very nearly missed the blade that flew towards his head. It bounced off his personal shield. Losing his concentration, he dropped the battering ram and turned to the source of the blade. A Nazgul, decked out in full battle armor, advanced toward him, Morgul blade drawn.
Written by The Watcher 12-01-2002 09:12 PM
As the hordes of Mordor fell back before the onslaught of Gondor and her allies, The Watcher rode forward on Antares to pursue. Though the battle had already been won, he knew that in a possible future an assault upon Mordor itself might be necessary. If that was the case he wanted to make sure that as few of their forces here returned to that realm to bolster the defenders. He intended to winnow down their numbers as much as he could, and destroy the morale of those who escaped.
The speed of his mount combined with his distance diminishing powers put him in the admist of the enemy. All who dared to stand before him were struck down by his lightsaber, while blows which fell upon him did naught. A figure of fear and terror he was, wielding a brilliant blue blade upon a fiery steed. Orcs and men alike quailed in terror, for Death rode amongst them.
Written by WriterBoy 12-02-2002 01:18 PM
The pain of looking at the horror of the Nazgul's mind was indescribable. The psychic feedback almost caused WriterBoy to black out. His nose began to bleed under the strain. Still, he pressed on. The burning Red Eye of the Enemy pierced his very soul, and bile rose in his throat. Still, he pressed on. Images of pain and despair, the horrible deaths of his loved ones, the destruction not only of Middle-Earth, but his own home world, all his greatest fears played out before his eyes. Still, he pressed on. Like a man wading through offal, he pressed on through the thick, oily morass of the Nazgul's mind, searching for something, anything, that would grant him victory. In dark, bleak corner, hidden beneath wards so powerful, not one telepath in a hundred thousand could pierce them, he found it. It took the shape of a large red button. He pressed it.
In front of him, the Nazgul collapsed. Its corporeal form faded, leaving behind only its cloak and sword. WriterBoy shook hsi head. Ugh. My brain needs a shower. An attacking orc brought him out of his momentary reverie. Once more unto the breach...
Written by Mg_knt 12-02-2002 04:32 PM
Mg:"Boy, you better pay more attention. Ya did the Nazgul well but you forgot the Orcs around him. Good thing I was there to save your ass. I am taking ya inside until ya recover. The healers will take care of ya but I would have Rommie take a look at ya afterwards, that flashbang was to close to ya for my comfort."
*Mg dropped Writerboy off with the healers and headed back out into the fray yelling at the top of his lungs and so the battle raged.*
Written by WriterBoy 12-02-2002 04:36 PM
Written by Tanith 12-02-2002 10:05 PM
In the high chambers of the White Tower, a dim light flickered. Denethor, the Steward of Gondor, grieved over the deathly still form of his son. Weariness lay deep in his eyes, and despair; but most of all love, and an overreaching guilt.
Then, there came the sound of steps running up the corridor outside the room. The doors to the chambe swung open, to reveal a breathless and wide-eyed Beregrond, a gate guard to the city. In sharp contrast did light shine in the light of the young guard -- light that was born of wonder, and hope.
"My... my lord!" gasped the guard, stumbling over his own words in excitement and breathlessness, "on the fields--"
"I care not." The three words, though uttered quietly by the aged and diminished Steward, nonetheless carried the command of the lords of Numenor of old. They stopped the younger guard in mid-word, jaws gaping in surprise, but with no utterance issuing forth.
"I care not," repeated Denethor. "In the matter of war let the Grey Fool take reign. I see no morning to this darkness." Sorrow lay thick in his voice, bringing the sharp pain of anguish to the formerly joyful Beregond.
"But..." turmoil battled in the tone of Beregond the guard, hope and despair merging into one voice. "But my lord, morning has come at last! Your son--"
"Silence!" The stentorian rage immediately drowned out Beregond's second attempt. The young guard flinched back as if physically struck, quailing from the lord's wrath.
There was a long silence in the room, softened only by the cacophony of battle that rose from behind the thick curtains that lay over the high windows of the tower, and the flickering of candlelight.
"The house of his spirit crumbles."
Beregond jumped at the suddenly voice, calmly stated despite the pain that it carried. The man swallowed dryly, fearing to reply lest the lord's ire flares into rage once more. Gently, almost lovingly, Denethor lifted his hand from where it had lain atop that of his son's.
"I sent my son forth, out into needless peril, and here he lies with poison in his veins."
Guilt now overlaid the pain in that voice, which once held all the command of the blood of Numenor, and that was now but the agonizing whisper of an old defeated man.
"And my eldest. Alas! Boromir! Doubt seizes me when my thoughts turn to thee! The stranger had shown me hope, and yet now I fear that hope false."
Beregond shifted uncomfortably. He would like none better than to burst into speech before his lord, allaying the Steward's heartwrenching pain with the joyful tidings that came upon the fields of death. But he dared not, for the power of Denethor's command still laid heavily upon him, and he struggled to find his tongue. Unheeding of the man's unease, Denethor continued, addressing the tormented thoughts that plagued his mind to the empty air around him, heedless of his unwitting confidante.
"Nay, nay, whatever may now betide in war, my line too is ending, even the House of the Stewards has failed. Mean folk shall rule the last remnant of the Kings of Men, lurking in the hills until all are hounded out."
At last, the lord lowered the head before his ailing son. He seemed a picture of a great man, broken by the woes upon his heart. Then, suddenly, he swept to his feet, startling Beregond once more with his sudden movement. A fey fire burnt in his eyes, a fire that spoke of a heart pushed beyond limits, and a madness that welcomed death.
"Better to burn sooner than late, for burn we must. I will go now to my pyre. To my pyre! No tomb for Denethor and Faramir. No tomb! We will burn like heathen kings before ever a ship sailed hither from the West. The West has failed! We will burn!"
Great was the mad fire that burned in Denethor's eyes, fire that only brought a chill of fear upon the onlooker. Beregond at that instant recovered his tongue, and he sprang forward, falling on his knees before his lord, with arms raised in supplication. His eyes filled with tears of anguish, though not all for himself; and his voice was hoarse with emotion.
"Nay lord! Say not so! As the morning sun does yet shine, so your sons yet live! Lord Faramir still breathes, and Lord Boromir has returned!"
A great change came over the Lord Denethor at those words. The fey madness that had rested upon him fled, and another light entered his eyes. A light that was brighter than before, for all that it still held the shadows of doubt, for it was a light born of hope, a thing that shines brighter than any fire born of despair.
"What say you!" he commanded of Beregond, in a voice full of wonder and doubt. "Is this some wizardry that Mithrandir hath wrought? Do you mock my pain! Speak! Speak truly or bear my wrath!"
"'Tis but the truth I say, my lord," said Beregond. "I with mine own eyes saw him, and many others on the city walls and on the battlefield. He rode on the black ships that came with the morning light, flying the long-forgotten banners of Elendil. With him came many a soldier strong and fresh, and strangers weilding strange powers and commanding strange beasts, and before him the scions of Mordor quailed and fled."
"Then 'tis true..." Denethor breathed, hope dawning upon his face as the morning light dawned upon the darkened plains. "The stranger spoke truly. My son is alive."
Suddenly, the light of hope that shone in his eyes was shadowed by another thought. "Yet you say they flew the banners of Elendil. Tell me, who led the charge from those black ships? For whom does that ancient standard fly?"
Unwitting of the tension that had returned to Denethor's voice, Beregond gave praise to what he saw of Aragorn, who led the charge. For lo! wonder had came upon all in the city when the standard had been raised, and they saw a long-awaited king return to Gondor in its hour of need. A kingly man, they praised him, and all could see that the line of Numenor ran strong in him. Nor did any miss the allegiance of their lord's eldest son, for Boromir fought at his side and at his bidding, as a true vassal to his lord.
Denethor was troubled then, and he slowly returned to his seat by his younger son's side. His eyes became unreadable as he gazed once more at Faramir's pale countenance.
"Leave me, Beregond," he commanded at last. "I will think more of this alone."
Beregond was at a loss to his lord's sudden change of mood once more, for he could see no shadow to darken the joy of this hour. But he feared the lord's wrath lest it be unleashed upon him once more, and he could do naught but obey. With a bow, he departed the room, leaving Denethor and his ailing son in the silence of thoughts once more.
Written by Tanith 12-03-2002 12:03 AM
The Sun went at last behind the Mindolluin and filled all the sky with a great burning, so that the hills and the mountains were dyed as with blood. In that hour the great Battle of the field of Gondor was over, and not one living foe was left within the circuit of the Rammas. Few ever came eastward to Morgul or Mordor; and to the land of the Hardrim came only a tale from far off: a rumour of the wrath and terror of Gondor.
Aragorn and Eomer and Imrahil rode back towards the Gate of the City, flanked by Boromir and the four outworlders, and they were all now weary beyond joy or sorrow. These were unscathed, for such was their fortune and the skill and the might of their arms.
But many others were hurt or maimed or dead upon the field. No few had fallen, renowned or nameless, captain or soldier; for it was a great battle and the full count of it no tale has told.
In the meantime, since the eve of day, Gandalf, having seen the fate of the battlefield turn to the favor of the West, retired to the Houses of Healing. There, he saw to the Rohirrim as they bore back the prone bodies of their king and their lady. He went from one to the other full of care.
And so the day passed, while the great battle outside went on with shifting hopes and strange tidings; and still Gandalf waited and watched and did not go forth; 'til at last the red sunset filled all the sky.
Then an old wife, Ioreth, the eldest of the women who served in that house, said: "Alas! Would that there were kings in Gondor, as there were once upon a time, they say! For it is said in old lore: The hands of the king are the hands of a healer. And so the rightful king could ever be known."
And Gandalf, who stood by, said: "Men may long remember your words, Ioreth! For there is hope in them. Maybe a king has indeed returned to Gondor."
Then Gandalf went out in haste, and already the fire in the sky was burning out, and the smouldering hills were fading, while ash-grey evening crept over the fields.
Now as the sun went down, Aragorn bespoke his companions before the Gate.
"Behold the Sun; it is a sign of the end and fall of many things, and a change in the tides of the world. But this City and realm has rested in the charge of the Stewards for many long years, and I fear that if I enter it unbidden, then doubt and debate may arise, which should not be while this war is fought."
But Eomer did not agree. "Already you have raised the banner of the Kings and displayed the tokens of Elendil's House," he said. "Will you suffer these to be challenged?"
"No," replied Aragorn. "But I deem the time unripe; and I have no mind for strife except with our Enemy and his servants."
Boromir was the next to protest. "Nay, my lord," he said as he spurred his horse forward. "What strife should lay between the sacred duties that bind the Steward to the rightful King? I would bespeak my father on thy behalf, and he is not one to deny what is true!"
Prince Imrahil spoke next, with words more born of wisdom than youthful fire. "Your words, Lord Aragorn, are wise, if one who is a kinsman of the Lord Denethor may counsel you in this matter. He is strong-willed and proud. Yet I would not have you remain like a beggar at the door."
"Not a beggar," began Aragorn, though he seemed almost persuaded by the words of his younger companions. "Say a captain of the Rangers, who are unused to cities and houses of stone..."
But it was the words of Gandalf that stayed his intentions once more. "Ho, Aragorn! Now is not the time for worries unneeded." Upon the back of Shadowfax the White Rider met the group, and in stern tones he advised Aragorn. "Your time for secrecy has passed. Gondor needs its king once more."
"What means you by this, Mithrandir?" asked Aragorn. "For I perceive you mean much by this."
And so Gandalf spoke of the dark tidings that had befallen Faramir, the same that had also befallen the king of Rohan and its white lady. At his words, despair anew sprang into Eomer's heart, and Boromir was dismayed to hear of his brother's malady.
But Gandalf saved for them one last ray of hope. "It is only in the coming of Aragorn that any hope remains for the sick that lie in the House and the Tower," he told them. "Thus spake Ioreth, wise-woman of Gondor: The hands of the king are the hands of a healer, and so shall the rightful king be known."
"Then you must go forth and save them!" cried Eomer, hope blossoming in him once more. "You are the hope of all of Rohan, my lord Aragorn. I beg of thee. Go forth!"
"Aye! And the hope of my brother!" cried Boromir likewise in anguish. "Surely my father will not begrudge the King who saved the life of his children."
Gandalf turned to Boromir at the latter's words. "Yes, Faramir's condition is indeed grave. Yet I fear Denethor has heard no tidings yet of the battlefield, for he has locked himself into the Tower, and bid that none may enter."
"Then I will bring him the tidings myself," said Boromir. "He would surely listen to the council of his remaining son."
"I will go with Lord Boromir," spoke a voice behind them. The Watcher came forward on the flaming back of Antares the Rapidash. "I have spoken in council with Lord Denethor before, and I think he may heed my words once more."
"It is done then," said Aragorn, finally acquiescing to the common demand. To Gandalf he turned as Boromir and The Watcher hurried toward the White Tower. "Take me to the Houses of Healing. For I fear it may take precious time indeed for my friends to convince the Steward."
And so Gandalf led him to the Houses of Healing. Writerboy followed them silently, for he remembered this part of the tale well, and had prepared for it since before he had set out from Rivendell.
There, in the Houses of Healing, Aragorn first went to King Theoden, and then to the Lady Eowyn. When he had looked on the faces of the sick and seen their hurts he sighed. "Here I must put forth all such power and skill as is given to me," he said. "Would that Elrond were here, for he is the eldest of all our race, and has the greater power."
Then he called to Ioreth and asked of her: "You have store in this House of the herbs of healing? Have you athelas?"
"I do not know, I am sure, lord," she answered, "at least not by that name. I will go and ask of the herb-master; he knows all the old names."
"It is also called kingsfoil," said Aragorn; "and maybe you know it by that name."
"Oh that!" said Ioreth. "Well, if your lordship had named it at first I could have told you. No, we have none of it, I am sure. Why, I have never heard that it had any great virtue; and--"
WriterBoy stepped forward then, and interrupted the woman's speech. "I have a small bag of it, Strider." So saying, he took out a small elven-pouch and held it out to Aragorn. "I obtained it from the stores in Rivendell, for I thought there might be need of it on this adventure."
Aragorn smiled. "Never has you and your friends ceased to amaze me, my friend."
Then he turned to Theoden, and taking two leaves, he laid them on his hands and breathed on them. He crushed them, and straightway a living freshness filled the room, as if the air itself awoke and tingled, sparkling with joy. He cast the leaves into the bowls of steaming water that were brought to him, and at once all hearts were lightened. For the fragrance that came to each was like a memory of dewy mornings of unshadowed sun in some land of which the fair world in Spring is itself but a fleeting memory.
But Aragorn stood up as one refreshed, and his eyes smiled as he held a bowl before Theoden's ailing face. And lo! Suddenly Theoden stirred, and he opened his eyes. Eomer gave forth a glad cry, and Theoden spoke softly.
"It seems, my lord, that you doom is greater than I feared. For you have come living out of the Paths of the Dead so that I would be brought forth from that dark realm alike. Debt is there from Rohan to the king of Gondor."
"Gondor is honored by thy words, Theoden King," answered Aragorn gravely, for such a pledge was not one to be taken lightly. "But you are weary yet. Rest a while, and take food. I must go to others who need me."
As he came to Eowyn, he could hear Ioreth exclaim behind him: "King! did you hear that? What did I say? The hands of a healer, I said." And soon the words had gone out from the House that the king was indeed among them, and after war he brought healing; and the new rans through the City.
But Aragorn knew naught of this as he looked upon Eowyn. He bent and called her softly, saying "Eoywn, Eomund's daughter, awake! For your enemy has passed away!"
She did not stir, but now she began again to breathe deeply, so that her breast rose and fell beneath the white linen of the sheet. Once more Aragorn bruised two leaves of athelas and cast them into steaming water; and he laved her brow with it, and her right arm lying cold and nerveless on the coverlet.
"Awake, Eowyn, Lady of Rohan!" said Aragorn again, and he took her right hand in his and felt it warm with life returning. "Awake! The shadow is gone and all darkness is washed clean!"
Then he laid her hand in Eomer's and stepped away, bidding Eomer to call to his sister. And so it he did, among his tears. Upon his words, she opened her eyes, and beheld her brother.
"Eomer! What joy is this?" she cried to him gladly. "How long have I been dreaming?"
"Not long, my sister," said Eomer, "But think no more on it!"
And as brother and sister were reunited in life, Aragorn and Gandalf slipped quietly out of the room. They went now to the Warden of the Houses of Healing, and they counselled him that the newly awakened patients should remain there and still be tended with care for many days. And there they awaited for word from the White Tower, where Faramir still lay afflicted under the Black Shadow.
Written by The Watcher 12-03-2002 03:41 PM
In the White Tower The Lord Steward watched over the silent form of his son Faramir, his face pensive as he contemplated the events of the morning. The forces of Mordor were routed. Gondor was saved. It should be a time of rejoicing.
And yet to him the victory tasted bitter in his mouth. For now one son lay ill, poisoned by Shadow. This other, his greatest pride, had returned under the sway of another. And worst of all, his Stewarship and his line's fortune was threatened by the very figure of salvation which had delivered Gondor from ruin.
Denethor's thoughts were disturbed by a sudden noise from the doorway. He looked up to see his son Boromir in the entrance, followed closely by the outworlder guest The Watcher.
Boromir: Father! I bring tidings that will lift thy spirits and bring hope to thy gloomy heart! The Enemy is in retreat and the city delivered from its doom! Moreover, the cure for Faramir's ailment is at hand!
At this Denethor looked up with an expression of curiosity mingled with wariness. Not at all the joy Boromir had expected.
Denethor: I have already heard rumor of the rout of Mordor. It is no news to me. What concerns me is this cure you speak of? What can possibly heal this malady of Shadow that has taken your sibling? The lore of the Healers is broad and vast, yet they have no remedy to his ailment. Is it an exotic gift of one of the Outworlders? Or a wizardry of Mithandir?
Boromir: Nay, father! While they possess many talents and arts most wonderous, it is not they who hold the cure! Nor does it come from Mithrandir. It lies in the hands of he who our line has waited for, as is in ancient lore! For it is said: The hands of the king are the hands of a healer. And now the rightful King has come.
At this anger and revelation shone from The Lord Steward's face, as he came to his own interpetation of all that had happened.
Denethor: Ah, understanding finally dawns upon me! The designs of Mithrandir have come to fruition! And what a clever gambit it is!
Watcher: What do you mean, Lord Steward? Why does Gan...Mithrandir concern you when there are other, more important matters at hand?
Denethor: Those matters are but strands of The Grey's web, outworlder. You know him not like I do. I have read his mind and his policies. His hope is to rule in my stead, to stand behind every throne, north, south, or west. Thus he brings this Ranger of the North to supplant me!
Upon realizing the implications of his father's words, Boromir too became angry.
Boromir: Aragorn is no puppet nor pretender! He is the rightful King, and in his hands lie my brother's only hope!
Denethor: So! Already he hadst already supplanted my place in one of my son's heart! And now the welfare of my other one has become an instrument to press his claim! But I will not allow my son's life to be his tool! I am Steward of the House of Anarion. I will not step down to be the dotard chamberlain of an upstart.
Watcher: But your son's life is at stake! What do you want!
Denethor: I would have things as they were in all the days of my life, and in the days of my longfathers before me: to be the Lord of this City in peace, and leave my chair to a son after me, who would be his own master and no wizard's pupil. But if doom denies this to me, then better to have naught: neither life diminished, nor love halved, nor honour abated. What good are more years of life for my son if the price be his birthright, and the ruin of his line?
At this Boromir looked like he was about to respond most angrily, but the Watcher looked at him and shook his head and mouthed no. He then turned back to face Denethor.
Watcher: Lord Steward, I can understand your concern. Your line has done much in its service as Stewards of Gondor. It has faced many trials throughout the years and has born its responsibilities with great valor and wisdom.
Denethor: Then you know why I would not step down. It is not only my own position that I think of, but the legacy of my fathers before me and the birthright of my sons after.
Watcher: Yes, I understand your trepidation. But you have to realize that your present stance in fact not only endangers your son, but threatens to disgrace your line as well?
Denethor: And what do you mean by that? Choose your words carefully, Outworlder.
Watcher: Lord Steward, as you say, this is not my world. I have no stake in who is Steward or King, or any of the affairs of state. I only give you my honest perspective as a guest who is grateful of his hosts hospitality and wishes to repay it with counsel he thinks might be of service.
Denethor: Go on then. Speak your counsel.
Watcher: Lord Steward, as I said before, your ancestors have born its responsibility as Stewards with great wisdom and valor. They all did their best to fulfill the duties of the office, to rule over and see to the good of Gondor...
The Watcher paused while Denethor nodded in acknowledgement.
Watcher: ...till the king should come again. Throughout the generations, your line has done its duty to insure that the Throne could be given back to its king. Now it appears that time may have come. If you fail to find out for sure, if you let the chance to give the throne back to the king pass unused, then all of their service would have been in vain. The Stewardship of Gondor would have lost all meaning. And your son would not only die, but would die knowing his line ultimately failed to discharge its duties.
At that Denethor looked stunned. He stood their for several seconds, not saying a word. He looked at Faramir, lying their ill, and then to Boromir. Then he looked back at the Watcher.
Denethor: Send for the Ranger. May his hands be truly those of a king, so that my son may be saved and my line's duty fulfilled.
And with that, word was sent back to the Houses of Healing.
Written by Mg_knt
*Mg rode throughout the rest of the night. The Clockwork Steed never tired unlike a normal horse. He arrived to a spot about five miles from the Black Gates. He de mounted and opened his pack, he took out a pair of binoculars, a gillie suit, and a snipers rifle. After placing the gillie suit over his normal clothes and making sure that everything worked Mg set out to survey the soon to be battlefield.*
*Mg watched the armies of Mordor awaken and go about their morning duties through the binoculars. He had surveyed the area before the gates. If anything whomever built the gates was an excellent engineer. The gates were placed exactly where it would be incredibly hard for an army to take them and the rocky terrain made the use of large siege weapons almost impossible. Though the armies themselves were in a precarious position. About two thirds of the army was outside of the gates meaning that either most of the army could be defeated if pressed againist the gates or that the gates would have to be opened for the army to take a better defensive position. He relayed all this information to Rommie and took pictures of the the army around the gates. Mg was sure that Aragorn would find this information useful. He gave Rommie a set of coordinates and a time where Watcher could meet him. Meanwhile, Mg decided to start with the last objective of his little excursion. He took the snipers rifle off his back and and sighted in the scope. Mg was looking to keep the armies of Mordor in a state of semi chaos till the armies of men show up, the problem is that he didn't know what a orc in a position of command looked like, so he went after orcs and men that looked important and hoped that he was guessing right.*
Written by The Watcher 12-04-2002 08:58 PM
A short time after being dispatched, the servant sent to the Houses of Healing returned with Aragorn and Gandalf in tow. Denethor looked upon Ilsidur's heir with a cool and appraising gaze.
Denethor: So, Strider has come to test his kingly virtue. I pray that he passes, for my son's Faramir's sake. Though the name does not inspire much faith in his royal status. Yet maybe he will wear his crown in some other name.
Aragorn: Verily, for in the high tongue of old I am Elessar, the Elfstone, and the Renewer. But Strider shall be the name of my house, if that be ever established. In the high tongue it will not sound so ill, and Telcontar I will be and all the heirs of my body.
Denethor: A much more apt and dignified appellation for a House of Gondor. Once your claim has been proven with the healing of my son, I would have no shame in giving it my fealty.
Aragorn: I would hope and prey I pass this test even if it would not win my birthright, for to stave off such an ill fate is a prize in itself.
And with that, Aragorn prepared the Kingsfoil, as a servant brought forth a bowl of steaming water for him. Soon the fragance of the world at the dawn of its making suffused the room, lifting somewhat the gloom of recent days from the hearts of all.
Aragorn then held the bowl before Faramir's face. Suddenly Faramir stirred and opened his eyes, and he looked on Aragorn who bent over him; and a light of knowledge and love was kindled in his eyes and he spoke softly.
Faramir: My lord, you called me. I come. What does the king command?
Aragorn: Walk no more in the shadows, but awake! You are weary. Rest a while, and take food, and be ready when I return.
Faramir: I will, lord. For who would lie idle when the king has returned?
Denethor: So, the test has been passed. My son has been returned from death's brink, at a great but fair price. For the reign of Stewards is no more. The throne is yours, my king.
And with that, the Lord Steward passed the sceptor of his office to his new monarch and knelt before him to pay the respect he was due.