Pyre

Preparing the Pyre

Denethor’s plan of executing himself and his only living heir has come to its final stage. His madness has grabbed hold of his thoughts as well as his actions, and nothing will deter him from his goal. His guards do not hesitate in building the pyre in which both Denethor and Faramir will burn. They will be burning the only current ruler of their realm as well as his only son and heir. As they place Faramir’s body on the platform, an almost inaudible sound escapes his lips.

Burning

The house of his spirit crumbles. He is burning. Already burning.

Denethor

Denethor hunches over his son’s face, holding it in his hands. He feels the heat emanating from his body. This only proves his theory that the spirit has left the broken body and is already burning. Therefore, to set it alight is nothing more than continuing his body’s natural occurrence of death. 

What Denethor has not considered, is the way the body fights to help preserve itself. Whatever injury was inflicted upon Faramir by the arrows of the Orcs, his body is trying to heal. Lacking the wisdom to recognize that fact is what leads Denethor to believe his son is already dead. 

Faramir’s body temperature has risen to protect the body from infection and system failure. It is a signal that something is wrong but that body itself is trying to rectify the problem. However, there is only so much a body can do without proper administration of medicine and care.

If he leaves his son’s wounds unattended his system will shut down and then he would have reason enough to burn his body. At this moment, unaware, enveloped in his own madness, Denethor interprets these signs falsely, leading him to burn his son alive. 

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Relieved of duty

A Hobbit, one Peregrin Took, has noticed the signs of life in Faramir, before Denethor’s death procession ever commenced. He tried to convey this information to Denethor, but in his daze and downward spiral, he had not the capacity of hearing or understanding anything other than his own twisted thoughts. 

Pippin: “He’s not dead! He’s not dead! No! No! He’s not dead!”

Denethor: “Hear now, Peregrin, son of Paladin: I release you from my service. Go now and die in what way seems best for you. Pour oil on the wood!”

Now that it has come to set fire to the wood, Pippin exhibits his own rage by trying to remove the already placed wood. Pippin’s anger of Denethor’s behavior is punished swiftly. He simply throws Pippin out of the mausoleum. From this point onward, Pippin is released from his lord’s service. Since Denethor is certain they are all going to die anyway, he suggests Pippin find a way to do the same. 

The way in which Denethor released Pippin from his service cannot be viewed as aggressive. He did not hurt Pippin in any way. However, the expression on his face says more about it than his actions do. He does not blink once. His eyes are fixed to stare in front of him, at nothing, and tie up all loose ends he must before his death. He wasn’t even mean to the Hobbit, but the unsettling look on his face combined with the skin-crawling feeling of this murder-suicide mission of his results in complete madness. 

An aid in need

Pippin is, however, too small and, in the world of Men, too inconsequential to carry out any kind of justice of this horrific site. The only way he can help save Faramir now is to find someone who can get through to Denethor. Gandalf seems to be the obvious choice.

As Pippin runs down to the lower levels of the Citadel through the soldiers going the opposite direction, he screams for Gandalf. All he sees are wounded soldiers helping each other reach the higher levels of the city so as to protect themselves if at all possible. 

Retreat! The city is breached. Pull back! To the second level! Get the women and children out. Get them out! Retreat!

Gandalf

Seeing as how Grond breached the gate of the city, there is only one command Gandalf can give, and that is to retreat. There is no way they can hold back the army of Mordor now that they have entered Minas Tirith. The only thing they can do is run for their lives.

A fight for life

Move into the city. Kill all in your path.

Gothmog

All chaos erupts as the Orcs enter the lower levels of the city, with only one task in mind, killing everything in their path. Swords, bows, daggers, knives and other weapons are no match for the blood-thirsty Mordor Orcs. They do not only wound or kill, but they also grab onto their victim with their whole body, leaving the neck exposed to tear the flash of the soldiers with their bare teeth. It is not only gruesome, it is barbaric and almost cannibalistic in nature, but then again Orcs love man-flesh most of all. 

Fight! Fight to the last man! Fight for your lives!

Gandalf

As the mayhem continues, and soldiers flee with the women and children, Gandalf pleads to their courage and rallies them into saving themselves as much as possible. There isn’t much more he can say, for he himself can see there is no hope left for the men to prevail. The hope of surviving is also on its last legs. 

A helping wizard

Through all the hell that has broken loose, Pippin finally finds Gandalf.

Pippin: “Gandalf! Gandalf! Denethor has lost his mind! He’s burning Faramir alive!”

Gandalf: “Come!”

Hearing this unsettling news of Denethor’s maddening plan, Gandalf pulls Pippin onto Shadowfax and they gallop toward the mausoleum. However, their plan becomes obstructed as Shadowfax rounds a corner only to face the Witch-King himself astride his fell beast. 

Gandalf places his staff in front of his body thereby covering not only himself but Pippin as well. 

The wizard and the Witch-King

Gandalf: “Go back to the abyss! Fall into the nothingness that awaits you and your master.”

Witch-King: “Do you not know Death when you see it, old man? This is my hour.”

This is what he was afraid of, and what he knew would befall him as soon as he arrived at Minas Tirith. The most powerful weapon in Sauron’s arsenal would never have found its way on the field, and it would certainly not be bothered by the feeble army of Gondor. Both Sauron and Gandalf knew the Witch-King would be sent to destroy the one powerful being still on the side of the angels. 

Having expected this encounter, Gandalf is less than surprised, for a face-off was bound to occur. He is confident in his powers as he orders the Nazgul to go back whence he came from. This, of course, does not bode well with the Witch-King. He has already announced himself the victor in his one-on-one fight, so anything this wizard can throw at him is almost laughable. 

Taunt and a threat

Hearing the Witch-King’s terrifying voice along with its screech sends Pippin into a cry of fear. He shrivels behind Gandalf in an attempt to shield himself from the ear-bleeding noise. 

As the Witch-King draws his sword and it becomes enveloped in fire, designing a vortex in the sky above it, Gandalf’s staff shatters throwing him off of Shadowfax. 

Gandalf!

Pippin

Pippin summons enough courage to draw his sword and charge a few feet toward the Nazgul to protect Gandalf in any way he can. He even screams to project more confidence than there really is. He manages to move only a couple of feet forward before the menacing growl of the fell beast freezes him into place. 

You have failed. The world of Men will fall.

Witch-King

The Lord of the Nazgûl taunts Gandalf in his frail state, stating his failure and the consequence of his failed attempt. Gandalf’s eyes widen in fear as the beast along with its master approaches him. This may well be his last sight on this earth. 

Suddenly, a horn blows in the distance. The Witch-King halts from smithing Gandalf with his sword and flies on his fell beast toward the sound. Gandalf’s reaction is that of confusion, for that is not the horn of any enemy under Sauron’s banner. This is the sound of the Rohirrim.

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