A/N: This piece attacked me during my lunch hour and poured into my notebook while I was eating salad and old fashioned chicken and noodles. It was triggered by the horde of questions that popped into my head after reading the final line of the Epilogue of Evendim's "Sharpe's Trophy" crossover, although it actually does not take place in that AU, but in one of my own making.

Disclaimer: This is a work of fanfiction, created solely for the enjoyment of the author and the readers at Fanfiction dot net. I am getting no monetary restitution for this work, and it is in no way intended to infringe on any copyrights or other intellectual property rights held by the Tolkien Estate, New Line Cinema, nor any other Lord of the Rings licensee.

Lamentable Tidings - Chapter One - The Messenger

by Rhyselle

9 March 3019, Shortly after dawn

The tall man in the browns and greens of the Ithilien Rangers knelt before the Steward, his skin waxen, and his eyes despairing hollows in the pain-ravaged face. The bowman's hands were clenched around a cloth-wrapped object, and he was surrounded by the miasma of terror and death, and his clothing stained with blood and other foulness.

"Captain Anborn, report!" ordered the senior officer who stood to the left of the Steward's chair.

"Henneth Annun is fallen, my lord," Anborn reported, his voice hoarse and wavering. It was obviously taking all of his strength to stay upright on his knees. "The Southrons, Haradrim for the most part, and orcs overwhelmed us by sheer numbers, forcing us from the refuge. Captain Faramir ordered a withdrawal, intending we should augment the garrison at Osgiliath. He kept to the rear guard, determined that as many men as possible should make it through. I fought at his side." He dragged in a deep pain-filled breath and continued. "We'd nearly made it to the river--and then we were trapped."

Denethor II's eyes were steely grey as they bored into the Ranger's face, almost as if the Steward was going to lift the horrific memories right from Anborn's mind instead of listening to the distraught man's words.

"The Haradrim drove us into a large force of Orcs on the east bank. We fought through, my lord, and most of the men managed to get into the river, intending to swim across to the west bank, but the rear guard--we were about to follow, those of us who were left--when the Nazgul came." Anborn shivered violently but couldn't seem to look away from Denethor's frozen face. "Captain Faramir confronted it, my lord. He ordered me to get the last of the men to the river and then he turned to the wraith and challenged it."

The man's fingers tightened on the burden he held. "Most of the rear guard made it into the river, fewer made it out on the other side--and some of us never made it to the water. I fought until my sword shattered, and then until my dagger was lost. The orcs took me, my lord. I prayed to the Valar that I would die with dignity, and Gondor's name on my lips--but they didn't kill me. They took me back to where Captain Faramir was." Anborn choked and bowed his head.

"What happened to my son?" It was the first time that the Steward had spoken since the Ranger was escorted into the Hall of Kings.

"He lay on the ground in the midst of a circle of orcs. His sword was broken--and the Nazgul was laughing at him--it was hideous to hear--their screams are horrible but this was worse. I thought I heard him say something but I couldn't make it out, and the Wraith kicked Captain Faramir so that he rolled face down, and it ripped the longbow from his back."

Denethor's breath caught, and then he clamped his lips together, as if to stifle a moan of grief.

"The orcs dragged me forward and it looked at me--I couldn't look away--I wanted to die and cover myself with dust and ashes to get away from it--" Anborn focused on the hands that clenched the White Rod and forced himself to continue. "It broke the bow. It took it in its mailed hands and broke it in pieces and then threw Captain Faramir up across the neck of the Fell Beast. He--he didn't move, my lord. Th-then the Orcs dragged me up to it and it gave me the bow. It took my hands and wrapped them around it and hissed at me that I was to bring it to you--and to give you--a--message. And then it mounted and flew east, towards the Morgul Vale."

The Ranger's eyes began to haze over, as if a grey mist of despair had taken physical form within them, and he awkwardly held up the bundle he carried. "It said," he paused a moment and then quoted, his voice changing weirdly as he repeated the ringwraith's words, "Tell the Steward to seek his son in the houses of lamentation, and to cease his useless defense of the land, for all will fall and break before the might of Sauron."

As Anborn said the last word, Denethor came down from his seat and took the wrapped object into his own hands. His mission complete, Anborn collapsed, his body wracked with shudders before going suddenly still.

The wrappings fell away, revealing four pieces of inlaid polished wood wrapped about with a tangled, twisted linen bowstring, the silvery mithril tracery of a white tree still gleaming near the shattered handgrip.

Denethor managed to resume his seat and bowed over the fragments of his son's weapon, clutching them tightly as he fought the despair that threatened to paralyze him with grief.

"Leave me," he ordered, not looking up, and the hall was emptied, the guards carrying the Ranger's limp form from the chamber, leaving him alone with the silent statues of the ancient kings.

Seek your son in the houses of lamentation.

"Faramir!" And Denethor wept.