Comes the moment to decide

So light up the fire and let the flames

The characters are the property of the Tolkien Estate. No profit has been, nor will be made from this story.

So light up the fire and let the flames burn - John PaculaboKeith RycroftSue McClellan

'And we are caught in the fire The point of no return So we will walk through the fire And let it Burn' - Joss Whedon

This chapter is co written with Raksha whose help is greatly appreciated.

Faramir was growing weaker by the hour. The fever burned on, sapping the little strength that remained after days of hopeless battle, the contagion loosed by the Enemy's dark riders, and the cursed arrow that had struck him at the last. Even now, Faramir seemed to struggle to breathe. His only remaining son was dying. Denethor was certain of that if nothing else. Imrahil had urged him to have Faramir carried to the Houses of Healing - to what end? The heir to the last Steward of Gondor should perish with his closest kin by his side, not servitors. He would care for his son in Faramir's final hours.

The pain of his remembered last words to his only remaining son twisted in Denethor's heart like a knife. Tending Faramir now, after sending him forth to die with such disdain, was the least he could do. It was not enough. Outside the White Tower, time dragged on, while Denethor sat there, mopping Faramir's brow and calling his name. Faramir did not answer. He never even opened his eyes!

Denethor shut his own eyes; trying to stem the tide of misery that threatened to well up behind them. For the first time, he was glad that his lady was dead, so she was spared the agony of one son's death and the other son's prolonged dying. Could it not be granted to him to see Faramir's eyes open one last time, to glimpse one last flicker of the light that had been Finduilas of Dol Amroth?

How could he have ordered Faramir to ride to almost certain death without even a commander's encouragement? The young man was, after all, his only surviving son. The reminder that Boromir was no more struck Denethor as sharply as an arrow.

Why had the Valar allowed his greater son to fall, leaving this gentle, credulous dreamer who had let the Enemy's weapon fall into his grasp?

In the palantír, Denethor had seen the Halfling who Faramir had described, the Ringbearer, Frodo son of Drogo, borne to Cirith Ungol by a troop of Orcs. Faramir might as well have delivered the poor creature to the Orcs himself! How Sauron must be gloating over his prize, the prize that Faramir had given him!

All this was the fruit of Mithrandir's poisonous counsel! Denethor's memory brought forth the image of the Grey Pilgrim beguiling the innocent, motherless child, filling the boy's head with legends of Elves and heroes of old. The Wizard had stolen Faramir, stolen his regard, and stolen his allegiance. Mithrandir had turned Faramir's head with talk of the White Tree blooming again and the King who would one day return.

King indeed! The man was none other than that upstart Thorongil. Denethor felt his mouth grimace as anger seared his heart. Had Mithrandir intended Faramir to offer the scoundrel the crown after Denethor himself had gone to join his longfathers? Had that been the wizard's game all along? Alas, alas for Boromir, who would never have bowed to any but his father!

A sudden flash of foresight came upon Denethor: a vision of Faramir regarding Thorongil with the same adoration that Ecthelion had reserved for his favoured Captain. So Mithrandir had intended Thorongil to usurp his son's affections in the same way the Northerner had stolen his father's love?

Yet Mithrandir, supposed master of pawns, had lost the game in the end. Thorongil might yet skulk out of the hills, but there would be little left for him to claim.

Strange indeed that he should see it so clearly as it could never come to pass now. The City was in ruins, as was his House.

The waves of pain and rage had receded. Denethor felt numb as he stumbled away from Faramir's bedside and climbed up to his secret place atop the White Tower.

Denethor looked again in the palantír. A vast fleet of black-sailed Corsair ships was sailing up the river to reinforce the Enemy's troops. It was over, there was no hope left for Gondor. The West would fall.

All was burning. Soon he would burn too. And what of Faramir? He was as good as dead already. He would not send his son away from him again. Better they should burn together. None save he should touch his son.

Resolved, Denethor called for his servants.

A/N A very grateful thank you for all your much appreciated comments.

Raksha and I have both been busy recently, but have no intention of abandoning our stories.

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