by Simply Sara

'Then passing through the door Gandalf took Faramir from the deadly house and laid him on the bier on which he had been brought, and which had now been set in the porch. Denethor followed him, and stood trembling, looking with longing on the face of his son. And for a moment, while all were silent and still, watching the Lord in his throes, he wavered...'

-from Return of the King, The Pyre of Denethor

'You cannot come to him yet...this you know in your heart.'

Denethor said naught as he considered the wizard's avowal. Mayhap he did but, there was no room for admittance, no room to accept defeat, not in this, not in rescuing his son, himself. The world was coming to an end, departing before their very eyes. So why couldn't the wizard see that this...this was the only way to spare themselves from a death in the grinding maw of the enemy or a bitter life as his thralls. They could no longer hope for a better end than this. They would not rise from this nightmare into a new day for now, their darkest dreams had become the reality which they had arisen to. They would not wake again. The Enemy was coming to capture and defeat all in sundry. So why should they not go to death, side by side at the end? Why not a death of their own choosing in place of the demise the Enemy had prepared?

He heard his thoughts rise to his lips and burgeon into the dark air of the tombs, the sounds faintly bouncing off the cold stone walls. Why not? He knew his own answer—his real, rational answer—but he had long since pushed it aside. There was no room for such soft sentiment here. He stepped more surely towards his son. Why couldn't the wizard see?

An unbidden reply arose within him: Because this is madness. You are the one who cannot see. He wrenched the thought from his mind. Had he not seen far more than any other could dream of? Did he not know the workings of the Enemy's plans? The seeing stone had failed him not.

'Ease their own death...pride and despair...domination of the Dark Power....'

The wizards declarations wedged their way into his thoughts, echoing and circling far more within his being than in the hallows about them, resounding all throughout his mind as he sought to puzzle them out. But they dulled to distant distractions as his feet slowed and he came to stand before his son, lying upon the bier, stirring only a little now and then. Faramir's face seemed deathly white, fragile, and so very, very pale. One can stand and watch and see the life slowly fading from him. Faramir flinched at something in the dreams his fever had spun. Denethor moved not, spoke not, and his eyes never left his son's face, his expression shifting through emotions with such rapidity as to make it impossible to name them all.

He stood wavering, thinking not of wizards, or of war, or of rings, or of power, long-sight, Dark Towers, and Dark Lords. He thought not of lineage nor great houses, noble blood, but of his son and the last words spoken between them. Tears so long banished found their way down his cheeks; tears of pity, tears of anguish, of love, longing, regret, guilt, loss, emptiness, an apology come too late—of a sorrow too deep to name.

Silence: It was louder than his thoughts, his questions, Mithrandir's proclamations, the clanging of his guards' swords. Somewhere deep inside he knew what he had always known—the truth he had ignored from the moment he had chosen this course of action. He would never be able to bring himself to claim his son's life. He was much too precious. Tears of weakness: The Shadow would claim Faramir then, steal him away as it had stolen Boromir. The Enemy would swallow his son whole, and rip him rudely from existence, like a bothersome but ineffectual, untroubling weed. And he? He would be powerless to stop it, frozen in this maddening cowardice that would not let him save his son.

Come! We are needed. The words both whispered and roared at him.

I am needed here! His own thought screamed in response. My son....

There is much that you yet can do.

These words did not echo, they clattered and came to a sharp and sudden halt—they rudely ripped him from his thoughts. His attention snapped forward, his eyes locked with the wizard's now. Incredulity flooded his senses, drowning all of his words, all the replies his mind struggled to fully form, until he could not speak at all. Much that he yet could do? Maybe there was action for someone else to fulfill, though he doubted a stroke now, even were it grand, would prove to be anything but vain when put to the test. Maybe there were deeds for someone else, though he could see none that still mattered; but, certainly, there was nothing left for him to do. Playing savior, after all, is not my strongest suit. He hadn't saved Boromir, he hadn't saved Finduilas; and now, he could not bring himself to save Faramir. If he could not save those dearest to him, if he could not save just three, how could he ever save anything else?

Down, down, down, he had watched Gondor tumble through the years. Up, up, always up they had pushed her, at lifting up they had toiled. Sometimes they had prevailed, victories had been made, battles won, foes vanquished, Darkness banished—for a time. But in the end, down she went even so, deeper and deeper into doom. Much that he yet could do? He had the strange desire to laugh. What feat, what act, what valorous deed was still left undone? They had been doing more and more and more and even more still for years! Great deeds had ultimately failed them. Salvation was always only temporary, wasn't it? Deliverance, recovery, escape, were never free from the taint of an ever-growing Darkness and wicked assaults untimely.

Much still to do: Had the wizard gone mad? Had Mithrandir really listened so little to all he had said, missed his meanings completely? Had he truly discarded all of his statements and warnings, taken them for nothing more than crazed conjectures?

In a fevered, unseeing storm, he turned and marched briskly back unto his pyre.

His comfort was this: They'd both soon see who was really the blind one here.