Door to the Past|
Rating: T, for mention of suicide and murder
Disclaimer: I did not create the characters of “The Lord of the Rings,” and I am borrowing them only as a tribute to the genius of their author, J.R.R. Tolkien. I am not making any money from this, so please do not sue me.
Word Count: 1,160 words, not including title
Summary: Aragorn is curious about what lies beyond a locked door in a tower.
The door at the top of these stairs had intrigued Aragorn even before his coronation, even when there were other more pressing matters on his mind. Now that he had at last been crowned King of Gondor, he would steal a few minutes from his duties as sovereign to satisfy his curiosity.
He just hoped it was worth the climb. The door was situated atop a long, winding staircase, and while the door appeared to be sturdy, it seemed ordinary enough. At least, sufficiently ordinary for a door situated at the very top of a tower once utilized by the late Steward Denethor of Gondor. Faramir himself had mentioned to Aragorn that no one save his father had ever gone beyond that door. And the new Captain of the Tower Guards, Beregond’s replacement, had informed Aragorn that by the Steward’s order, the door had always been kept locked. Two men had always been posted, day and night, to guard it. When the Captain had surrendered the door key to Aragorn—now Elessar and King—the Captain had muttered something about how it was said the Steward had used the room to “strive in thought with the Enemy.” So, Aragorn had surmised that this chamber had been where Denethor had kept, and used, the palantir. As the palantir—now showing nothing save a pair of wrinkled hands amidst flame—was under lock and key elsewhere, Aragorn doubted if there was much to see in this chamber. Still, as the King, Aragorn wished to unlock the door and view for himself what lay beyond.
Although had I known this was going to be so many steps, I might have changed my mind, he thought humorously. He stopped at the top and stood before the door, now unprotected by any guards, produced the key from his pocket, unlocked the door, and opened it.
Aragorn was not sure what precisely he had expected to find upon opening the door, but he had expected something more dramatic. Inside was one room with whitewashed walls, a carpeted floor, and a single window. The furnishings consisted of a simple podium, where the palantir evidently had once rested. A large chair, as intricately carved as a throne, stood before it. And nearby was a table that had evidently served as a desk, for there were papers scattered atop it, along with an overturned inkwell and a broken quill. Aragorn stepped up to the table and examined the papers.
His gaze sharpened as he realized what he was reading. The handwriting he recognized as being that of Denethor, and at first, judging by the content of the opening sentences, Aragorn thought it might have been a will, or an attempt to write a last will. But as he continued to read, he realized that it was in fact a suicide note of sorts. At the very least, it appeared to be an attempt on Denethor’s part to sort out his emotions and thoughts, and to justify the drastic action he had felt compelled to take. The missive began clearly and rationally enough, but quickly the writing became more scribbled and less coherent.
“The black ships…Enemy of Gondor…I know this man...he pretended to serve my father, but he served only himself…he will bring doom to Gondor…”
Continuing to read, Aragorn almost dropped the papers in his shock and consternation. Denethor had not, as everyone including Gandalf now seemed to believe, mistaken the black ships for invaders and pirates, come to kill the people of Gondor at the behest of Sauron. It was clear from these papers, agitated though their author clearly had been, that the late Steward had known that Aragorn, whom he had known as Thorongil, was in command of the ships, even as Denethor had seen them in the palantir.
“This Thorongil, or whatever he calls himself now…as always, seeks only to strip me of my power…he and the Grey Fool seek only to supplant me! But I shall not live as the dotard chamberlain of such an upstart…nor will I allow any son of mine to bend the knee to such, or serve as a puppet ruler…if I cannot have power, I will have naught…I shall die, and take my last son with me! My second son is weak, he would surrender the White Rod to this usurper, but that I will never allow…this kingdom is mine, my son is mine, and with our deaths, it is Thorongil who will have naught!”
Aragorn let the papers fall back onto the table, horrified at the depth of hatred in those scrawled words. Denethor had *known* that the black ships were under the control of Aragorn/Thorongil, and had committed suicide anyway. This papers, evidently the last thing Denethor had ever written, made clear that in a horrible way, the late Steward had known precisely what he was doing when he had burned himself alive—and had attempted to do the same to his younger son. Denethor had preferred a horrible death, and had preferred to murder his own son, rather than surrender power to the man whom he had seen as his rival.
Distantly, Aragorn heard the sound of footsteps. Someone was climbing the stairs. “My lord King?” he heard Faramir’s voice call.
Aragorn reacted without hesitation, almost without thought. Snatching the papers up from the table, he tore them to bits, strode over to the window, and tossed them all out. The wind picked up the shreds and scattered them in all directions, just as the door to the chamber opened and Faramir entered.
“My lord King? Forgive me if I have disturbed you.”
“Not at all,” Aragorn said, turning to face the younger man, who stood in the doorway, smiling. Faramir appeared to be in the best of health, now that he had fully recovered from the Black Breath, and had his wedding to the Lady Eowyn of Rohan to look forward to. The King added, “I was just curious as to what lay beyond that door.”
Faramir glanced around. “This is where my father often ‘strove in thought with the Enemy,’ as the men of the Tower Guard used to say. I have never been inside before. No one save my father ever used this chamber.”
“And I do not believe I shall use it, either,” Aragorn said, crossing the room toward the door. “There is nothing of interest here; perhaps this room can be used for storage.”
Faramir smiled, seemingly slightly relieved. “I shall make the necessary arrangements, my lord King. And now, I fear there are some papers which require your Majesty’s signature.”
“Of course. And Faramir, as I have said before, when you and I are speaking privately, there is no need to address me so formally. Aragorn will do…” As he spoke, the King placed a fraternal hand on the shoulder of the Steward, gently guiding the younger man out onto the landing, closing the door—and the past—firmly behind them.