The Siege of Gondor
Note: This chapter is not quite finished, so some of the pictures are broken links.
Note: This chapter is not quite finished, so some of the pictures are broken links.
Denethor questioned Ganalf closely about events in Rohan. Presently he dismissed Pippin to the armouries to be fit with the livery of the Citadel.
Soon Pippin found himself in strange garments. His old clothes were folded and put away. He looked now, had he known it, verily the Prince of Halflings that the people had called him.
At the eleventh hour Pippin was at last released from service. He found Beregond and they went again to the walls. It was sunset, but the great pall had reached almost to the western horizon. "It is a broil of fume from the Mountain of Fire," said Beregond, "sent by the Enemy to darken hearts and counsel. And so it doth indeed. I wish the Lord Faramir would return."
Suddenly they heard a shuddering cry, piercing the heart with poisonous despair. Looking out upon the Pelannor Fields they could see five horrible bird-like forms, swooping after some fleeing men.
"Black Riders!" exclaimed Pippin. "Gandalf! Gandalf save us!"
"It is Faramir's call!" cried Beregond, hearing a trumpet call from the men below. "Help! Help! Will no one go out to him? Faramir!"
Peering out, Pippin saw a flash of white and silver coming from the north, like a small star down upon the dusky fields. It moved with the speed of an arrow, and the shadows gave way before it. "Gandalf!" cried Pippin. "It is Gandalf! Go on, White Rider!"
As Gandalf approached the wheeling Nazgul, he raised his hand, and a shaft of white light stabbed upwards. The Nazgul swerved away with a wailing cry, vanishing eastward into the lowering clouds.
The White Rider met up with the men, and together they returned towards the Gate. Guessing that they would come at once to the Steward, Pippin hurried to the entrance to the Citadel.
It was not long before there was a clamour of men calling the names of Faramir and Mithrandir. As they entered the courtyard, Pippin saw that Faramir resembled his brother Boromir. He could see why Beregond spoke his name with love. He was a captain that men would follow, even under the shadow of the black wings.
Seeing Pippin, Faramir was amazed. "Whence come you? A halfling, and in the livery of the Tower! Whence . . .?" Stepping to his side, Gandalf urged Faramir forward into Denethor's chambers.
At first Faramir told Denethor of the movements of armies through Ithlien. Then he looked at Pippin. "But now we come to strange matters, for this is not the first Halfling that I have seen walking out of northern legends into the Southlands."
Faramir told his tale, and when he mentioned Frodo's plan to enter Mordor through Cirith Ungol, Gandalf sprang up. "When was this? When would they reach that accursed valley?"
"I parted with them two days ago," said Faramir, I hope that I have not done ill?"
"Ill?" cried Denethor. "I wish that Boromir had been there. He would have remembered his father's need, and would not have squandered what fortune gave. He would have brought me a mighty gift."
"To send this thing in the hands of a witless halfling into the land of the Enemy himself, as you have done, Mithrandir, and this son of mine, is madness."
The next day came with a morning like a brown dusk, and the hearts of men, lifted for a while by the return of Faramir, sank low again. Pippin was once again called to Denethor's chamber, where the Council had been summoned. "We should not lightly abandon the outer defenses," said Denethor. "Not if there is a captain here who has still the courage to do his lord's will."
All were silent. But at length Faramir said, "Since you are robbed of Boromir, I will go and do what I can in his stead. But if I should return, think better of me!"
"That depends on the manner of your return," said Denethor. Faramir made ready to go forth again with such strength of men as were willing to go or could be spared.
The next day arrived with darkness and ill news. The passage of Anduin was won by the Enemy, and Faramir was retreating across the Pelannor. Watchers on the walls could see the main retreat two furlongs distant. With a piercing cry out of the dim sky fell the winged shadows of the Nazgul, and the retreat became a rout.
The knights of Dol Amroth came forth from the Gate to the aid of Faramir's forces. The armies of Mordor were driven back temporarily, but Faramir was struck down by dart from above.
Prince Imrahil bore Faramir up to the White Tower and he said, "Your son has returned, Lord, after great deeds." But Denethor looked on the face of his son and was silent.
Denethor went up alone into a secret room under the summit of the Tower; and many who looked up thither at that time saw a pale light that gleamed and flickered from the windows. And when he descended again to sit beside Faramir, his face was grey, more deathlike than his son's.
So at last the City was beseiged, enclosed in a ring of foes. There was still no word of the Rohirrim, but even if they came they would be cut off from the Gate.
All night long the watchers heard the forces of Mordor laboring. In the morning they could see great catapults, that began casting missiles over the battlements and into the first circle of the city.
Many of these burst into flame as they came toppling down.
Soon there was great peril of fire behind the wall, and all who could be spared were busy quelling the flames that sprang up.
Then there fell a more terrible hail, small shot that did not burn. But when men ran to learn what it might be, they cried aloud or wept. For the enemy was flinging into the City all the heads of those who had fallen fighting at Osgiliath. And the Nazgul came again, and stout-heared men would fling themselves to the groundd at the horror of their voices.
All this black day Faramir lay upon his bed in the chamber of the White Tower, wandering in a desperate fever. And by him his father sat, and said nothing, and gave no longer any heed to the defence.
No hours so dark had Pippin known, not even in the clutches of the Uruk-hai. As he watched, it seemed to him that Denethor grew old before his eyes, as if something had snapped in his proud will, and his stern mind was overthrown.
Men came to the Citadel to tell Denethor that the first circle of the City was burning and to ask him his orders. "Better to burn sooner than late, for burn we must," said Denethor. "Go back to your bonfire! I will go now to my pyre."
Denethor released Faramir's hand. "He is burning, already burning." And addressing Pippin he said, "Farewell, Peregrin son of Paladin! I release you from your service. Go now, and die in what way seems best to you."
"I will not say farewell, my lord," said Pippin, kneeling. "But I will take your leave, for I want to see Gandalf. I will not think of dying until he despairs of life."
Denethor called for servants, and they bore Faramir's body to the Houses of the Dead. There they laid him upon a stone table, surrounded by the sleeping forms of ancient kings.
carry F to tomb tomb exterior
"Here we will wait," said Denethor, "but send not for the embalmers. Bring us wood quick to burn, and lay it all about us, and pour oil upon it."
bring wood! tomb interior
Pippin turned and fled in horror from the deathly house. "Poor Faramir!" he thought. "I must find Gandalf!" As he ran down through the streets he saw Beregond, and sent him back to the tombs to protect his captain.
All this time the battle had raged outside the gates. A huge ram, great as a forest tree, was pulled across the field. Long had it been forging in the dark smithies of Mordor; on it spells of ruin lay. Grond they named it.
The drums rolled and rattled. With a vast rush Grond was hurled forward by huge hands. A deep boom rumbled through the City. But the doors of iron withstood the stroke.
The the Captain of the Mordor forces, the chief Nazgul himself, cried aloud in a dreadful voice. Thrice he cried. Thrice the great ram boomed. And suddenly upon the last stroke the Gate of Gondor broke, and the doors tumbled to the ground.
In rode the Lord of the Nazgul, and all fled before his face. All save one. There waiting sat Gandalf upon Shadowfax. "You cannot enter here," said the wizard. "Go back to the abyss prepared for you!"
"Old fool!" laughed the Nazgul. "This is my hour. Do you not know Death when you see it? Die now and curse in vain!"
Gandalf did not move. And in that very moment, away behind in some courtyard of the City, a cock crowed. Shrill and clear he crowed, recking nothing of wizardry or war, welcoming only the morning that in the sky far above the shadows of death was coming with the dawn.
And as if in answer there came from far away another note. Horns, horns, horns. In dark Mindolluin's side they dimly echoed. Great horns of the North wildly blowing. Rohan had come at last.
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