If I had worried that the riders from Dol Amroth might notice a woman joining their charge, it was certainly a misplaced fear. Prince Imrahil’s cavalry was focused with deadly intent on their appointed task. Though trumpets announced our charge, none of Imrahil’s men took up a battle cry. With that same single-minded focus, they pushed on to the south as hard as their mounts would carry them, eagerly leaning forward in their saddles.
Lightfoot had obviously well recovered from our long ride to Gondor and now leaned hard into his bit, straining at my arms and yearning to fully stretch his legs to outdistance the Gondorian mounts, but with a firm hand, I held the gelding back, maintaining my place in the charge.
Only as we crossed the dried brown grasses of the Pelennor and were almost upon the melee of Faramir’s soldiers and Sauron’s did the soldiers around me begin to let loose their battle cries. The Southrons turned at our call and split their forces to combat both Faramir’s men and ours. Faramir’s men took up the same battle cries, soldiers once again heartened and finding renewed strength to fight.
But even with our now combined forces, it wouldn’t be enough. More Southrons advanced from the overrun Osgiliath, and worse yet, one of the Black Riders, the very Witch-king of Angmar, led the Southrons who had been sent against Faramir.
Lightfoot had faithfully charged into the melee at my urging, turning and wheeling under my hand to face each oncoming Southron.
With the first Southron I had cut down, I knew this kill and this battle would linger in my heart. I’d killed many men in my own world, but always from a distance. Never while looking into their eyes. Seeing into their souls it seemed.
Even in the battles I’d thus far seen in Middle-earth, I’d fought Orcs and Uruk-hai, and though I knew some of my arrows had found Dunderlings when I fought at Helm’s Deep, I had not battled them hand to hand and looked into their eyes as they dulled of life.
Ironically, as my body fought almost on autopilot, I remembered Legolas’s words to me in Lórien and how he had urged me not to join Haldir’s men in battle there. He had warned me that battle in this world would not be what I was used to. He’d been right then. And his words proved to be right still.
But my resolve was as strong now as it had been under the winter-bare trees of Lothlórien. Perhaps even stronger. For now, I truly did consider this world my own. And I knew I would sacrifice more for the fate of it than I’d even been called to give even in my previous world.
The chilling act of slaying men and not merely beasts I knew would stalk my nightmares later, but I pushed the horror down, tamping it deep within myself only to arise again when I had helped to finish our task.
A jolting hit suddenly glanced off my exposed left side as I plunged my sword through a Southron into the vulnerable armor at the base of his neck with my right arm. I turned my attention to the Southron on my left; he had only caught me with a glancing blow at the tip of his extended swing, but was stepping closer to rectify his near miss.
In a split-second decision, I dropped the reins in my left hand, thankful they were one continuous rein and not split reins, and tossed my sword up through the air over Lightfoot’s arched neck. With my left hand turning to grasp the sword in an overhand grip, I spun the blade back towards my flank to catch the advancing Southron in the same downward thrust that pierced through the base of his neck.
“Pull back! Pull back to Minas Tirith!”
As the call rang out, I looked up and around. The riders of Dol Amroth were helping wounded soldiers of Gondor to their horses and even pulling some onto their own mounts with them.
Prince Imrahil himself was only a dozen yards from me, pulling a wounded man from the hands of another onto his horse in front of him. The injured man’s head fell limply back against the prince’s shoulder and the sandy hair fell away to reveal Faramir’s slack face. He’d been struck by an arrow and was coated in both bright red and older dark red blood, his skin so pale his veins and arteries stood out in stark contrast, only instead of blue tinged, they were darkened to nearly black, the ghastly result of the Witch-king’s black breath.
Loud thwacks rang out as arrows landed all around us, many striking with a wet and meaty sound as they stuck both man and horse. Lightfoot danced nervously beneath me, but no arrow struck us as other horses and men were felled all around.
“Pull back!” the cry rang out again, stronger in its intensity this time.
“Give me your hand!” I shouted to a soldier bearing the White Tree on his uniform. The man had just struggled to his feet, pulling himself from beneath his still horse a few yards from me.
The man turned to face me, and I saw the red dribbling down his right leg, whether from a previous wound or his horse falling upon it I didn’t know.
Taking three quick hobbles, he started to hold his left hand out to me, hesitating for a brief moment when he realized his would-be rescuer had different plumbing than him.
Tossing my sword back to my right hand, I reached out with my left. “You can either accept a woman’s hand or see if the Southrons are more to your liking! Your choice!”
The hesitation fled his face. He grabbed my outstretched arm as I began urging Lightfoot past him, using the horse’s momentum and our combined upper-body strength to swing him up behind me.
True to his naming, Lightfoot reached a dead run in three short bounds, running straight and true by the time I had the wounded soldier secured behind me and again picked up the reins.
Several riders likewise burdened were already ahead of us, so I followed their path back to Minas Tirith, only briefly glancing over my shoulder to peer around my wounded companion and seeing that the rest of the riders appeared to be pushing along behind us.
We all slowed as we reached the city and rushed through the open gate. Soldiers of Gondor were clustered there to take the wounded, bearing them away by litter and cart to the Houses of Healing. My own companion slid carefully down from behind me when I pulled my gelding to a stop near one of the carts.
A young healer slung the soldier’s arm over his shoulders to help bear his weight, but the wounded soldier hesitated, stalling the healer as he stared up at me. I could see the hesitation there and his struggle for what to say. To a woman no less.
I jerked my head down in a single nod, needing no words. “You’re welcome.” I turned my horse away and rode a little ways apart, watching the influx of the other soldiers trailing into the city.
“Faramir! Faramir!” came the cry as Prince Imrahil bore his nephew through the gates before him, slack and limp.
The prince didn’t stop at the clusters of healers and soldiers, but instead carried him straight up the winding roads to the citadel.
A resounding thud sounded as the gates were heavily shut after the last of the riders and those soldiers that had held the way from Anórien had passed through. Ingold and his men were among them, but I paid the men we’d first spoken to upon our entry into Gondor no heed. The echoing sound of the closing gate shook me from my immobility, and I slid from the back of Lightfoot’s prancing and coiled form. I whispered calming words to him, hoping to sooth and calm the battle-adrenaline that still coursed through him. My own seemed to have fled as I sat and watched Faramir and all the other wounded soldiers brought in.
As I stepped away, I felt the dull ache in my side, reminding me of the glancing blow on my left. I looked down to see my shirt torn, but no blood. Peering through the fabric, I saw that the chainmail I’d acquired in Rohan had done its job. A bruise would likely form there, but bruises faded far quicker than a wound from having my side sliced open would have healed. I still doubted just how strong the chainmail might be to a direct hit, but I certainly wasn’t complaining about having the added bulk at the moment.
I glanced back at the soldiers and healers bearing the wounded away as I continued walking up the winding streets, whispering lowly to Lightfoot, “Those men would have been better served in the battle that will come to the city’s doorstep instead of charging impotently at a greater force to retake already lost ground. Too much was lost here, and nothing gained.”
I watched from outside my rooms, the large doors to my balcony thrown open as I stood there, leaning on the balcony wall and looking out over the field.
Orange glows still littered the Pelennor where the enemy had lit field and tree, burning and hewing any living thing and even the dead they came across throughout the night since we returned to the city. The enemy had crossed the river, spreading and circling around us. And today they were digging in, extending trenches around the city walls.
Even in my room up above the city, I could hear with both mind and ear the distraught calls and thoughts of the Gondorians. Their lament that Rohan would not come, and could not reach us now if they did, passed from nearly every mind and mouth.
I knew the Riders of Rohan would come, but it was difficult to remind myself of that with all the weighty doubts burdening my senses.
“They will come,” I whispered to assure myself. “They will.”
“My lady,” a timid voice called behind me.
I turned to see Nethiel’s downturned face behind me as she filled the open doorway to the small stone balcony. I tossed an arm out to gesture she could join me on the balcony, which, though small—only extending a few feet away from the walls—did afford plenty of room for her to join me in my vigil of the enemy’s progress.
“You are requested at the Citadel by the Steward,” she intoned, barely above a whisper, her head still turned down and not moving any closer. I could feel her fear. Though at the enemy now setting up positions all around us or at Denethor’s summons I couldn’t say.
“What does the Steward want with me?” I wondered. “And why now of all times?”
“I cannot say, my lady. Only that I was sent to fetch you and see that you were properly dressed for meeting the steward,” she demurred.
“‘Properly dressed,'” I repeated, glancing down at the untucked linen shirt and pants of this world that I was finally becoming accustomed to. “Just what the hell does that mean? And what’s it matter?”
I doubted Nethiel understood all my words, but she hastily explained, “I cannot answer, my lady. My orders are all I can speak to.”
Nethiel turned back towards the room as I walked towards her, my bare feet betraying only the barest scuffle as I walked. I watched with absent amusement as the girl threw open the doors to a tall oak wardrobe and began fluffing bits of skirts out for my inspection.
“Which would you prefer to dress in?” she asked, not turning away from the swaths of fabric she fluffed. “I had not time to see proper dresses were made for you of course, but I have found several that shall fit more than adequately with only slight alterations for fit.”
My arms crossed stubbornly over my chest. “And what I’m wearing right now fits just fine, too. I’m quite comfortable in fact.”
The girl finally cast a sneaking glance over her shoulder at me. “You wear fewer clothes than even the women who sell their bodies for payment,” she muttered. Instantly she seemed to realize she’d spoken out loud and clasped a hand over her horrified expression. For several moments, she seemed torn between fleeing the room in horror and falling to her knees to beg forgiveness.
I laughed and waved it away, wondering passingly if I wasn’t actually a bad influence on the girl with my own flippant remarks. But then, I pictured what the girl would think if she saw the bathing suits of my country, and failed to bite back a wide grin.
“Why do I have to wear a dress?” I tried again, gesturing with my hand at the open wardrobe.
“It is only proper for an audience with the steward,” she responded, seeming overjoyed not to be beheaded on the spot for her comment.
Am I really that terrifying to the poor girl? I wondered to myself.
She worried her lip as she stared up at me through lowered lashes, actually seeming truly terrified. I let my barriers slip a bit to catch her thoughts, worried for the first time that she really was terrified of me.
What shall I do if she shall not wear one of the dresses I have been instructed to see she dons? She is a lady! I cannot make any sorts of demands of her. But my orders were explicit!
I continued to ignore the lady crap, and pulled away from her thoughts with a weary sigh, stepping closer to examine the dresses she’d brought. I might not like it, but I wasn’t going to get the poor girl into trouble just because I didn’t like something.
The dresses were all beautiful but frothy things—at least to my eyes. So wholly different from the dresses I’d worn in my own world. I had been known to wear them from time to time. But contrary to this world, I hadn’t worn them to display my femininity, but rather to display and highlight my assets. But it wasn’t dancing or clubbing I was being drug to by someone, and not even a bed-partner I was hoping to attract for the night. Instead, I was in Middle-earth—Minas Tirith no less—being requested by the Steward himself.
When did I get so lucky? I grumbled to myself.
I pulled out and rejected every dress on the first pass through the selection, finding some flaw with the possibility of wearing each of them. With every dress, it would either display too much of the skin on my back or chest. But I had to choose one of them. Too bad the fashion of Gondor couldn’t be high-necked Victorian creations or even nun fashion. Ugly, but at least they’d hide my scars.
Finally, I settled on a dress that would display only a modest portion of my décolletage and the scars crisscrossing my collarbones. Thankfully, its back was high, hiding far worse scars there. Nethiel was once more put out when I insisted on dressing myself alone, but silently walked into the other room at my command.
Once the dress—and several layers of thick underskirts—was on, I called Nethiel back in to help me tighten the laces that cinched up the back of the dress. I was sure there was a way to do it myself, but damned if I could figure it out. Nethiel grunted as she strained at the gold colored laces, stretching the green velvet material around my torso, breasts, and hips, pulling the beautiful fabric tight around my curves until even I had to admit to the flattering cut of the dress.
But—”Damn Nethiel, am I supposed to be able to breathe?” I gasped. “How the hell is a little thing like you so strong?”
“It must be tight to hold and form to your figure. You have a lovely profile when it is not masked by the trappings of a man’s clothing.”
“Yeah, and throw on a pair of stiletto heels, tight jeans, and my ass could bounce a quarter,” I growled lowly. “And then I would still be able to breathe.”
“Never mind. Just tell me that’s the last tug or I’m cutting myself outa this thing and going back to plan A.”
“It tis,” she assured me as she began tying to laces at the small of my back. “Come, sit, I shall quickly style your hair and then you shall be ready to appear before the steward.”
She pulled a chair away from a mirrored vanity and gestured me into it.
“Sure, I’m mostly helpless when it comes to doing much with hair. Blow dry straight or air dry curly are my major feats.”
She made a polite noise, but I didn’t think she understood my words. Not that I wasn’t getting painfully used to it.
I closed my eyes as she worked, amazed at how gently and quickly she moved, not once pulling or tugging at the messy mop on my head, but seeming to zip around behind me nevertheless. As I lightly dozed, I considered why Denethor was requesting my presence. I’d assumed he would remain by Faramir’s side keeping vigil and seeing no one. In truth, since the moment I’d reentered the city with the cavalry of Dol Amroth, I had figured I’d never again see the last of the Stewards before he succumbed to his madness and grief. But now, he was calling me to him. What could he want? Did he think he could get more information out of me? Or had he seen something about me when he gazed into the palantír one last time after Faramir was carried back to him?
“You are ready,” Nethiel announced.
My eyes snapped open as I stood with a stretch that was cut short when my deep inhale was choked by the restricting bodice. I cursed under my breath as Nethiel gestured to the mirrored vanity. Stepping in front of it, I was shocked by the image it reflected.
“Wow, I can hardly believe that’s me,” I whispered. “You do fantastic work styling hair, Nethiel.” The compliment was honest and heartfelt. I’d never seen that red mop of hair so elegantly styled. Nethiel had obviously used a curler heated in the fireplace to curl beautiful ringlets in my hair where many portions of the long strands hung down. My hair had grown longer than I’d realized as well. The rest of the thick hair she pulled back and twisted almost like a French-twist so it was held back and up from my face and neck.
Yet it was more than just the hair that transformed the figure in the mirror. The dress was exquisite too. It had seemed pretty hanging in the wardrobe, but stretched across my chest, waist, and hips; it almost made me seem like a completely different woman. Or perhaps wholly a woman for the first time in a very long time.
The green velvet was fitted in the bodice, down my arms, and across my hips. Only past my hips and wrists did it open and flare. The skirts were thick and heavy, but what seemed old-fashioned to my sensibilities seemed at the same time full and regal as well. The sleeves were skintight to the wrists where they opened in bell sleeves that trailed under my palms down several inches past my fingertips. The green of the velvet was deep and rich, offset by the equally rich gold trimmings of a belted cord at my waist and gold leaves embroidered into the sleeves and along the hem of the skirt. I smiled wistfully in fond remembrance of Lórien at the sight of those little leaves.
“Thank you, Nethiel. You’ve done a wonderful job, better than I could have ever dreamed of.”
She curtsied as she hid a blush. “Come, you must meet with the steward; he shall be expecting you,” she reminded, speaking to the floor as she remained crouched in her curtsey.
“Right. Of course,” I sighed. “Mustn’t keep him waiting.”
I cast a lingering look at my weapons piled on a chair by my bed. I fleetingly wondered if I could hide a knife somewhere under my dress, but rejected the humorous images of me trying to fish it out from under the layers of skirt or jabbing myself if I tried to hide it in my cleavage. But it was an awfully naked feeling to walk through the door with no weapon at all.
Surprisingly, there was a Citadel Guard waiting in the hall to escort me. Guess the dress means I’ve automatically dropped 50 IQ points and will wander the halls aimlessly without a man to cling to and show me the way, I couldn’t help snidely thinking.
But I paused in the open doorway and told Nethiel, “No sense you staying here and continuing to wait on me. The battle will start soon enough and I’m sure those healer could use you back at the Houses of Healing to run and fetch for them like you’d planned.”
“Are you certain?” she asked hesitantly, though stepping cautiously and eagerly closer to the door.
“Yeah, go, I’ll see you when this all is over,” I assured with a wave.
She nodded and followed me out the door, closing it quietly behind her as she turned and hurried along in the opposite direction my escort was indicating.
The elbow between us he held out for me to grasp, and while I considered pushing it away and striding forward on my own, I steeled myself and plastered a fake smile on my lips as I lightly wrapped a hand around the crook of his offered elbow.
Thankfully, he didn’t reach down to close his other hand over my fingers, instead keeping his arm bent and rigid in an impersonal offer of guidance. Although his muteness added to the impersonal feeling as well.
Not that I was complaining. It gave me the moments I needed to corral the awed and giddy feelings I’d been experiencing at the shockingly altered figure I’d seen in the mirror. I needed to stuff that childish giddiness away and remember how important it was to be composed since I was being called before a man both intelligent and quite cunning—even if he was suffering great grief at the moment. Perhaps even more so since he was suffering such grief. I couldn’t underestimate him again.
Surprisingly, my silent escort didn’t lead me into the Great Hall as I’d expected, deflating my assumption that I didn’t need his guidance. Instead, he led me into a hallway off different wing from my own, and rapped lightly on a closed door. A soft “Enter,” met us.
My escort relinquished his bent arm and released my hand before opening the door, silently gesturing me inside.
Faramir was laid out on a bed in the center of the room; Denethor slumped over in a chair beside him, absently stroking Faramir’s hand as he stared at a spot on the top blanket. He didn’t rise as I entered, nor even turn around to acknowledge my presence, simply remained with his back to me while stroking his son’s pale hand and staring.
Pippin stood just inside the door, dressed in his Guard of the Citadel livery and casting frantic and surprised looks between Denethor and me. I wasn’t sure if he was afraid to break the silence or hoping that I could do something for his lord. But I was certain he was surprised by the sight of me in a dress.
I hesitated briefly just inside the room even after the door had shut behind me. But still, Denethor didn’t move or acknowledge me. The room was dimly lit and reeking of medicinal herbs and soap wafting on the air currents. But the room itself had a disinfected feel to it. Nothing personal or homey about it. Just a room with a bed.
Impatient, I tore my attention from the father and looked to the son. Somehow, he seemed even worse than when I’d seen his uncle bear him from the field.
Crossing around the foot of the bed, I went to stand on the other side and gaze down at Faramir. His skin was pale and clammy, the dark veins still standing in stark contrast to his pale skin. Hair that had before seemed a light sandy brown was now darkened almost to chestnut and slick with sweat. He seemed both older and younger than when I’d last seen him. The slackness of his features softening and removing the maturity that strengthened his expression, but the slight grimace of pain on his lips adding back yet more years than ever.
A cloth wet with cool water lay forgotten by his shoulder, and I picked it up, gently dabbing at the sweat shinning on his face.
“I am told you were quite close to my son for many hours when he returned to the city,” Denethor suddenly spoke, not looking up from the spot he stared at.
My hands hesitated briefly at his words, but then resumed bathing Faramir’s face with the cool cloth. “Yes. He wanted to hear me tell him of his brother’s fate. And after, we eased the shared grief for the passing of a man we both cared very much for.”
Denethor’s eyes finally tracked up to mine as he sat in his chair and stared at me beneath dark lashes, his hand now stilled and gripping his son’s. “And did you seek to seduce the new heir to the Stewardship of Gondor now that the first had been slain.”
His words were every bit accusation, but strangely, they lacked the heat I might have expected with such claims. Almost as though he was just stating a matter of fact.
“I have no more design on Faramir than I did on your eldest son,” I gently explained. “Boromir I counted as a friend and miss as a treasured and competent comrade. Though as a brother, Faramir of course feels the loss more deeply than I. Still, we could share the grief at the loss of so great a soldier as Boromir. And though I knew Faramir for only a moment in time, I count him as a friend as well and pray for his recovery.”
The flat affect he’d suffused in his manner and speech finally fled as he dropped Faramir’s hand and sprang to his feet, glowering down at me. “Lies!” he hissed. “I know you beguiled my eldest and once that prize was removed you moved on to the next in my line. A woman does not stand so intimately with a man she does not have designs on.”
The accusation shocked me, but I fought to keep my calm, focusing on bathing the sweat from Faramir’s face as I battled my own quick temper. I had never considered that this would be why Denethor had requested my presence. In truth, I hadn’t thought about someone seeing me talking with Faramir—or how it would have appeared—or even the remote possibility that such a wild accusation might make its way back to Denethor. Truthfully, I hadn’t considered how it might have seemed to Faramir either.
I almost laughed at the ironic idea that the chaste comforting hand I’d offered to Faramir had been convoluted into something intimate. I’d been uncomfortable with Legolas’s friendly closeness, handholding and such, and now, when I’d become almost accustomed with it and offered a simple hand of comfort to someone else, it had been thought it too intimate. It wasn’t as though I’d hugged or embraced the man, simply placed a comforting hand on his arm as he grieved the loss of his brother.
I glanced at Pippin nervously shifting from foot to foot and wringing his hands by the door, but knew there was nothing the hobbit could do to help handle this situation. “There was nothing intimate about standing with him that night,” I calmly argued. “We barely even knew each other, and we only shared a moment of remembrance and mourning with each other. Nothing more.”
His eyes narrowed as I looked back at him, his eyes lacking any conviction in my words.
“I never had that kind of love for either of your sons,” I continued. Holding up my left hand, I added, “Another holds my heart.”
He looked surprised but still glanced wearily back down at his son.
“My betrothed would say that it is intent that makes a touch intimate, and there was no such intent for either Faramir or me that night. Only an offer of comfort for grief.”
Denethor continued staring down at Faramir’s face as he continued speaking, his words again flat and quiet. “If you are betrothed, why is it you were allowed to ride out with the sortie that went to my son’s aid? Who is your betrothed that he would so foolishly allow this thing to happen?”
The corner of my lips ticked up. “He’s not yet here. But he’ll come to Minas Tirith with the others. And even if he were here, he knows not to order me away from a fight.”
Denethor tore his gaze from his son’s slack face with visible effort. “You had not his permission and you sought not my own to ride into battle.”
I shrugged at the statement, but answered anyway. “I’ve often found asking for forgiveness is easier than asking for permission.”
He waited a beat for me to speak and then continued himself. “Yet you have not asked for this forgiveness.”
I gave a minute shake of my head. “Yeah, I’m still working on that part; guess it’s the fatal flaw in my plan.”
Denethor didn’t seem amused. “Then your betrothed is one of the Rohirrim that you still unwisely believe rides to our aid?”
For the first time, an emotion other than anger seeped into his words: despair.
I knew I should probably bite my tongue and say nothing, but I spoke anyway. “The Rohirrim will honor the age-old alliance. They will answer the call and come. But no, my betrothed is not Rohirric nor does he come by that road. He and his companions will come by another.”
The steward collapsed bonelessly into his chair again, hunching over wearily as he resumed his former stare and stroking Faramir’s hand. “All have forsaken us,” he whispered, almost as though he’d forgotten anyone was there.
Tears wet his cheeks as Denethor suddenly became an old man, bent and broken before my very eyes. Wrinkles and creases suddenly becoming apparent where his strength had before disguised them. Nothing was left in him but despair. His plotting, planning, and devising had fled.
“Do not weep, lord,” Pippin tried to comfort him as he stepped up behind his lord. “Perhaps he will get well. Have you asked Gandalf?”
“Comfort me not with wizards!” Denethor cried. “The fool’s hope has failed. The Enemy has found it, and now his power waxes; he sees our very thoughts, and all we do is ruinous.
“I sent my son forth, unthanked, unblessed, out into needless peril, and here he lies with poison in his veins. Nay, nay, whatever may now betide in war, my line too is ending, even the House of the Stewards has failed. Mean folk shall rule the last remnant of the Kings of Men, lurking in the hills until all are hounded out.”
“It is not ruinous yet, my lord,” I tried. “Faramir yet lives. You have wronged him yes, but do not repay the misdeed by giving up all hope. Rally your people; prepare for War!”
Anger again snapped in eyes that glared up at mine. “You are a foreign woman of foreign dress and speech. What does the likes of a woman who would so ensnare any man she encounters know about matters of War? A harlot does not see past her next conquest. She cannot even see the world crumbling about her.”
I dropped the cloth beside Faramir and leaned down across him to speak angrily at his father. “Don’t presume that just because you’ve been shown a few images that the Enemy wants you to see, that you know what’s actually happening out there. There is more at work than you realize, and your people are stout and hearty, ready and willing to fight to the death if need be, but abandoned by the one who should be leading them because you don’t have the same heart as them to stand up and meet whatever fate the Enemy thinks he’s going to dish out here.”
“I’ve seen more than a child like you can comprehend,” he growled back.
“The problem is you don’t comprehend how little you’ve seen,” I spit back just as fiercely. I hated that I was standing here in a dress. Somehow, my usual clothes made me feel stronger, as though by disguising my femininity, I could appear as a man in my opponent’s eyes, or at least as an equal.
“Leave!” Denethor hissed. Raising his voice he called, “Remove her at once.”
The door opened, revealing my escort silhouetted in the doorway by the light spilling in from the hallway.
I shoved my anger down, frustrated with myself for letting it get to the point where we were both so angrily snapping at and pushing each other’s buttons.
Looking down at Faramir, I whispered more calmly to his father, “Your son is stronger than you know. I’ll pray for his strength and recovery.”
“Leave!” he repeated.
Pippin glanced desperately at me, but I silently shook my head. I’d made a mess of things and could help him no more.
My silent escort started into the room towards me, but I walked out under my own power before he could muscle me out. He didn’t offer a courteous elbow to me this time, instead clamping his hand on my shoulder as he pushed more than led me to my quarters.
I was fuming mad as I walked. Fuming at Denethor’s absolute despair, fuming at the anger I’d failed to keep in check and allowed to become so uncontrolled, and fuming at everything in this situation. Fuming mostly at what I knew Faramir had yet to go through. Pippin too for that matter.
I was so fuming, that I nearly failed to notice that my silent guard’s thoughts were not nearly as silent as he was. We were reaching my door before I caught the echoes of Denethor’s orders in his mind. And by then, it was too late.