The horse's hooves beat on the muddy ground, churning up wet soil and dead leaves. He rounded a bend too fast, almost falling, but righted himself and galloped on. Despite their too-fast pace, the rider encouraged the horse to go even faster, bending low over his steed's sweating neck.
Finally, the white towers of Minas Tirith came into view, and both horse and rider nearly collapsed in relief. Asking his panting horse for one final push, the rider was rewarded with a final burst of speed that brought them to the guarded entrance to the citadel.
"Halt!" one of the guards cried out. "Who goes there?"
In one fluid movement, the rider dismounted and thrust back his hood.
"Captain Faramir!" the guard said, shocked. "I apologize, I didn't recognize-"
"There is no time for that now, Turgon," Faramir said, cutting him off. "I have a matter of utmost importance that is to be brought before the King."
The guards exchanged a glance. "The king is in the middle of a council meeting-" Turgon started.
"This is a matter worth disturbing the king," Faramir said sharply. "If you do not remember, I outrank the both of you, and I am demanding to be brought before King Elessar."
After a brief pause, the guards nodded, and they reluctantly let the determined Captain through. Looking at his retreating figure, Turgon gave a low whistle. "I wonder what's got Faramir in such a state."
His partner shrugged. "Whatever it is, buddy, it's above our pay grade. I just hope that the King doesn't blame us for letting the Captain through despite his orders."
Turgon let out a small laugh. "I'll back you if you back me?"
"Agreed." Turgon heard the smile in his partner's voice, and the two turned back to guard the entrance for the rest of the night.
Faramir hurried down the dimly-lit passageways, knowing the way to the throne room like the back of his hand. He burst into the throne room, interrupting some lord in the middle of his rant - something about raising taxes.
"Sire, I apologize for the interruption, but this matter is of the utmost importance." He waited until his King to give him permission to continue. "I've just returned from the patrol, my lord, near Weathertop. I know it might seem strange, but it appears that... that the Necromancer is rising again." The words tumbled from him, but they halted as his King rose.
Three years into his reign, Aragorn had started rebuilding from the devastation the War of the Ring left behind. Aragorn believed that a King should be on the front lines instead of giving orders from behind his soldiers. It was one of the main differences that distinguished Aragorn from Denethor and many other kings before him, and one of the reasons why he had the respect of many races across Middle Earth, from dwarves to elves. It was also a preliminary cause of why he clashed so often with the lords and nobles that made up the Council.
Upon hearing Faramir's announcement, the throne room erupted with each of the nobles trying to get their voice heard over the competing racket.
"Got to act quickly-"
"Move while he's unprepared-"
"Yes, but what of the losses-"
"SILENCE!" Aragorn's voice cut through the lords' like a boulder slicing through water. At his voice, the room immediately quieted.
Aragorn looked around, frowning. "Now," he said, his voice calmer but still holding a hint of danger, "we must gather all of the necessary information before barging in with a half-cooked plan that will likely get my soldiers killed. Captain Faramir-" Here Faramir straightened his shoulders beneath Aragorn's steely-eyed gaze - "please tell us the report, in full." Aragorn sat back down on his throne, looking expectantly at his friend.
Faramir cleared his throat before beginning. He told of his three-man patrol, which was following a group of Haradrim - men who had fought on Sauron's side during the War of the Ring. He told of a great earthquake, and how, when it cleared, revealed a boy - just a child, really. Faramir explained how the Haradrim had advanced on the boy, only to be met by a shaking Earth and undead warriors.
"The Haradrim attacked, only to be pushed back by the skeletons," Faramir said. "The ones who stayed to attack were slaughtered. All the rest retreated."
"And what of your companions?" Aragorn asked into the stunned silence of the room.
Faramir looked down. "When they realized he was a Necromancer, they attacked," he said. "I tried to stop them, but I failed, My Lord." He cleared his throat. "Hirluin and Beleg are dead. Not at the hands of the skeleton warriors, but by the hands of the Necromancer himself. Despite his age, he is skilled with a sword and a formidable enemy, My Lord. We would do well not to underestimate him."
"What more is there to talk about?" Malvegil, a noble, cut in. "We must take our troops and kill him straight away!"
Aragorn frowned. "Lord Malvegil, it is not as simple as that."
"Well, what else is there to consider?" Lord Dervorin interrupted. "Any person who follows in the steps of Sauron-" he all but spat the name "-is a danger to the free peoples of Middle Earth!"
The other nobles started to murmur in agreement, but Queen Arwen, who had sat quietly on her throne until then, joined the discussion. "My husband is correct. We cannot go in there unprepared. For one thing, we do not know if he is acting alone; we do not know how powerful he is, if our army can kill him or if we will just be sending them to slaughter. We do not know if he truly is a threat, as we are unaware of where his alliances lie." She looked, steely-eyed, at the men around her. "And until we determine his allegiances, we cannot be held responsible for the murder of a man - a boy - who might very well be innocent."
If there was one thing that could be said for the Lady Arwen, it was that she could hold her own in a fight.
Lord Malvegil cleared his throat and addressed her. "My Queen, be that as it may, we cannot wait until he reveals himself. By then, it will be too late, and he will take over Middle Earth one by one."
Arwen stared at the man in front of her. "Lord Malvegil, the only crime that boy has committed is defending himself from an attack. I will admit that it is not in the usual fashion, but he is doing what any one of us would have done, albeit with his... skills."
Arwen had barely finished speaking before Lord Dervorin jumped in. "My Lady, I must agree with Lord Malvegil; we do not have the time to wait. The first Necromancer, Sauron, attempted to take over all Middle Earth; who is to say that this one is different? No, we must act against him before he acts against us."
Faramir had never trusted Dervorin. He was a sly speaker, and would capitalize on the recent war to connect this new Necromancer to Sauron. The only hope now was with Aragorn, who, as King, had the final say in all matters.
The King looked thoughtful as he contemplated his options. Finally, he made a decision. "I will ride out with a few of the guards to determine how great of a threat this boy is. I will not attempt to engage him in a conflict, however..." he paused. "However, it may be necessary to eliminate this threat. Captain Faramir, will you escort me on this task?"
"Of course, My Liege," Faramir bowed.
"Then gather some men to escort us to Weathertop." Aragorn turned back to the Council. "Queen Arwen will be in charge here until I return." The note of finality in Aragorn's voice was a dismissal to all present. As everyone rose, another, younger soldier burst into the throne room and found the attention of all nobles present locked on him. He blushed and looked down.
"My lord, I apologize for interrupting, but we have just received word..." he looked up eagerly, his nervousness shining through anxious eyes. "King Elessar, the earthquake Captain Faramir saw? It was not the only unexpected anomaly. A lightning storm and tsunami also occurred around the same time as the earthquake."
There was a stunned silence in the room before Aragorn remembered to dismiss the soldier, who bowed and scurried backwards out of the room. There was another pause while everyone pondered this recent development.
"If that earthquake brought the Necromancer here, and there have been more unnaturally occurring incidents..." Aragorn began.
Arwen finished her husband's thoughts. "Then the Necromancer did not come here alone."