Disclaimer: I'm only borrowing them, I'm not making any money off this, and I have no delusions of being Tolkien. Denethor's the one who's gone mad, not me.

Author's note: The Denethor discussion on Henneth Annûn set this very inconvenient Nuzgûl on me. I hope this got it out of my system and I can go back to playing with baby orcs now.

Rath Dínen is cold but it cannot break the fever that consumes him. He is burning, and soon I, the city, all of Gondor will follow him into the flames. I have seen it; the palantír cannot lie.

If I could speak with him one last time, I would tell him that I regret my harsh words at our last parting. Poor lad, too much like his father! We were strategists, he and I, and what use is strategy against such an opponent? From his earliest days, I could see he had my preference for study and forethought, and his mother's for gentleness. I tried to train him out of the weaknesses he inherited. Have I not fought all my life with those same weapons, only to lose more land and power with every year? And that tenderness killed his mother, who was not made for such bitter times and choices. I would have been remiss if I had not tried to correct those faults, but I need not have been so brutal. The war was already lost before he learned of the halflings. I know that now.

Boromir was cut from different cloth, and for a time, I hoped he might do what I could not. He understood expedience from birth. If all our strategies were doomed to fail against such a foe, then perhaps sheer force of arms could save us. But that path failed as well. The palantír has shown me the forces arrayed against us, and they were always too strong, even had we the halfling's treasure. Our enemy so far surpasses our strength that Faramir's foolish idealism turned out to be no less use than the most cunning stratagems I could devise.

Oh, why can they not keep a decent silence in the houses of the dead?

The oil is cool as I pour it into my hand. His fever heats it before it has a chance to soothe the tense flesh of his face. I stroke more oil over his hands and fold them across his chest. The pen callus is barely visible on his finger now, supplanted by hardened skin on his palms where he gripped the bow and sword. Did it grieve him to see the marks of a scholar fade from his skin?

He has gone beyond suffering now, but the power that laid the Black Breath on him could also remove it. The few who survive this battle will count themselves accursed that they die not die, and none more than Faramir. His deeds are known in Mordor, and the Enemy will delight in tormenting him for his defiance.

That, at least, I can prevent. Faramir is mine, and I will not let Mithrandir or Sauron or both of them together steal him from me. I wish I could tell him that I love him, have always loved him, but I will have to let my actions speak for me.

How long can it possibly take to fetch that torch?