A Matter of Duty

Author: Larner

Nominator: Ellynn

2011 Award Category: Drama: Angst - Second Place

Story Type: Story  ✧  Length: Short Story

Rating: Teen  ✧  Reason for Rating: Disturbing Imagery/Themes

Summary: The Captain of the Guard of the Citadel, during the late afternoon of the Battle of the Pelennor, finds he must examine the situation that has led to so many deaths within the Hallows earlier in the day.

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Reviewed by: Virtuella  ✧  Score: 7

Dear Larner, I liked this well fleshed-out rendition of an investigation which clearly must have taken place. It shows very well a number of moral dilemmas this situation brought with it. The demand to follow orders obviously depends on those in charge giving only sensible orders – is it then no longer valid if a leader has clearly lost his mind? Who is to decide when a person should abandon the principle of authority and follow their own judgement instead? And Beregond – as a reader, it’s so easy to overlook those three men he killed, because obviously we are focussed on Faramir. But what presumption is it that Faramir’s life should be worth the death of three others? Clearly, we wouldn’t want to live in a society where people thought that way, and yet it is hard not to approve of Beregond’s actions. This is a thought-provoking piece, well-reflected and neatly presented.

Reviewed by: Linda Hoyland  ✧  Score: 6

I loved this story which fleshes out a few lines in the book. We are told that Beregond is sent to his Captain after killing the porter and Denethor's servants, but not what the Captain says. This story tells what happened and also the viewpoint of one of Denethor's surviving guards in a very convincing manner. Both Beregond and Denethor's guard believe that they are right, Denethor's guard using the oft repeated excuse throughout history that he was just obeying orders. I liked the Captain who seems a just and fair man, who wants to do what is truly right. Surely Denethor's attempted killing of Faramir and the events it triggered are one of the saddest moments in the book. A must read story, thought provoking and well written.

Reviewed by: Darkover  ✧  Score: 6

This is a story that reminds us that no matter what a person does, there are consequences. Sometimes that is especially true when a person does the right thing. This story explores what might have happened to Beregond between his saving of Faramir's life, and his judgment at the hands of the new King. The story is profoundly and movingly written; the characterization is strong, and the dialogue is skillfully crafted. Blind obedience, even among soldiers, is not something with which I normally have much patience, but this story presents both perspectives so well that I did find myself sympathizing a bit with those who did not disobey Denethor's insane orders. Beregond is still portrayed as the man who did the right thing, however, and I am pleased with that. A fine story, not to be missed.

Reviewed by: Linaewen  ✧  Score: 6

I have thought long and hard about what it was that caused Denethor's servants to obey him so swiftly and without question. This gap filler of Larner's answers that question quite well. It is not an easy thing to obey one's lord -- or to disobey, as is the case with Beregond. There are consequences either way. Yet while Beregond's disobedience might seem to be the worse crime, his commitment to his act is unwavering and he has no regrets, for he knows it was the right thing for him to do. On the other hand, the one who obeyed Denethor without question because it was his duty and his commandment becomes the instrument of Denethor's death, and he cannot face it when events turn out in such a way as to not support the actions taken. His excuse that it was his duty seems quite hollow now, and he knows it. A thought-provoking tale and a sad one, yet it ends on a hopeful note!

Reviewed by: Nath  ✧  Score: 5

I certainly do not envy the judgement Gilmaros has to make here, and while on the one hand he can be said to dodge the issue, at the same time he is wise enough to not merely follow the letter of the law, and has the courage to think for himself. After all, without the blind obedience of Denethor’s servants the whole situation wouldn’t have come to this pass. Larner shows us a very likely gap-filling scene here, and I for one am left wondering how Gilmaros will fare in the new Gondor, since he is shown as a fair-minded man who should do well under Elessar’s rule.

Author response: Once Denethor was dead and the great lords involved in finishing up with the last stragglers of Mordor's armies and seeking aid for Faramir, Merry, Eowyn, and other victims of the Black Breath, who else would have been of sufficient authority to consider what should be done with Beregond or to seek to understand just why Denethor was dead as a result of his suicidal pyre and yet Faramir had come to be rescued and brought to the Houses of Healing? There had to have been a captain that Beregond would have answered to, someone to decide that he should be relieved of his rank but still set to the guarding of the Captain of the Host he'd sacrificed his career and possibly his life to save from his father's madness. Gilmaros has been the name I gave to the surviving officer of the Guards of the Citadel who continued on in Elessar's service alongside his kinsman Hardorn, and I was so pleased to find myself writing his story at the last, and indicating just why Aragorn would in the end honor him enough to keep him on, and perhaps how the new King might have been inspired to find a different means of meeting the letter of the law while still rewarding Beregond's loyalty and love for Faramir. Thanks so very much, Nath!

Reviewed by: agape4gondor  ✧  Score: 5

I really love gapfillers and this is a great one. I had not thought Beregond could well have been punished by death when he reported to his captain. But it is a possibility. They didn't have the time or the resources to guard prisoners. Seems the best thing to do would be to hold a quick trial and then have Beregond killed. The law was not wishy washy on this point. My heart went out to the other soldier. Long in Denethor's service. Duty and obedience were to be lived without question. A hard taskmaster with his sons, he must have been worse with those who owed him fealty. The poor man gave his life. I wanted to weep. No poultry farm. And his poor wife. Already planning her life once her husband retired. Grief profound!

Reviewed by: Azalais  ✧  Score: 4

This captures beautifully the agonising dilemma of Denethor's Citadel Guards in the Silent Street; to obey the letter of their law, or its spirit? To do their duty or to do right? It's both tense and poignant; accounting for his decision is such a great strain that one of the guardsmen is driven nearly to madness himself, while poor Beregond begs his commander not to let Bergil witness his execution for dereliction. Yet the final note is that of the hope brought by the Rohirrim and, above all, by Aragorn. Powerful and vivid writing.

Reviewed by: Ellynn  ✧  Score: 3

This is one of the most beautiful, touching and poignant stories I have ever read about Beregond and the events following his deeds to rescue Faramir. Larner's characterization is perfect here. Yes, we know that everything will be all right for Beregond in the end, but he doesn't; so the very end brings tears to readers' eyes. Beautifully done.

Author response: This is one gap I'd wanted to see filled for so long--how it was that Beregond found himself relieved of his rank but not his duty, who it was who sent him to the Houses of Healing to keep guard on Faramir, and what that one felt about the whole affair leading to Denethor's tragic self-immolation. I've written the end of Hanalgor's tale in "The Acceptable Sacrifice," so I wanted to see how he, too, reacted to his deed in the immediate aftermath of Denethor's death. Thank you so for such a lovely review to this tale!