Servant of the Tower

Author: Branwyn

Nominator: Raksha the Demon

2006 Award Category: Genres: Drama: Gondor Fixed-Length Ficlet - Second Place

Story Type: Fixed-Length Ficlet  ✧  Length: True Drabble

Rating: G  ✧  Reason for Rating: N/A

Summary: One of the household servants defends his obedience to Denethor's final orders.

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Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon  ✧  Score: 8

This is an incisive and very effective look at one of the luckless household servants who followed Denethor's orders in carrying the unconscious Faramir to the pyre and preparing him for a terrible death. Not too many fanfic writers have focussed on the servants' dilemma, the choices they made, and their reactions to that choice, not to mention how they fared after the Ring War ended. This drabble packs a lot of emotional complexity into a mere hundred words; the narrator is conflicted, defensive, and it's all very realistic. What I especially like is that there is no easy response to the drabble, just as there is no easy answer to the question of the servants' actions on that day. Were they guilty, or were they just frightened men clinging to the habit of obedience in a world about to go up in flames and blood? The narrator is drinking alone and seems to be somewhat ostracized; and one senses that for him, the world did end that day; and, unlike Faramir, he was never able to awaken from horror and sorrow to a better world.

Reviewed by: Marigold  ✧  Score: 5

So much of the personality of the servant is conveyed in this drabble. Though he insists that he was fond of Faramir his lack of noble character in blindly following the orders of the Steward is plain. He was more concerned with his own wellbeing than he was with the loss of an innocent life, taken with his own assistance. Others likely would *not* have done the same and there can be no justification no matter how many times he tells himself otherwise. And this man knows that, and thus he seeks to drown that knowledge with wine. Excellent drabble!

Reviewed by: dkpalaska  ✧  Score: 5

An unusual perspective, and well-told. The servant is rationalizing his actions that day, and even he knows it. He sticks to his story because abandoning it would mean admitting the grave wrong he committed in the name of "obedience." However, I don't want to trivialize the bitter and fearful choice he had that day (either trust your heart or your lord), and quite likely he acted under some of the same despair and hopelessness as Denethor did and thought, "What difference does it make?" The drabble clearly shows his internal struggle and current outcast status, and I felt more pity for him at the end than disgust.

Reviewed by: Dwimordene  ✧  Score: 4

A rather devastating glimpse into the mind of one of Denethor's servants. We all know the pattern: O woe is me, the horrors I had to endure in the carrying out of my duties! And it is always true, but sometimes it is only an excuse. The last line gives the game away - there's no defense so desperate as self-defense when the last thing desired is to see clearly the weakness of that defense.

Reviewed by: Marta  ✧  Score: 4

Ouch. This works on some level because it at least acknowledges what a weakness it would be to let Faramir die. And the servant is at the least obviously twisting from the shame enough to want to turn it outward. Somehow, though, I'm left with a disgust for the "ordinary" Gondorians like thim. Thank God for Beregrond, and no wonder PJ's version suffers for his absence! And I guess that disgust is the point of it all - not a pleasant one, but one worth experiencing nonetheless.

Reviewed by: Tanaqui  ✧  Score: 4

Branwyn gives us the justification of one of the Tower servants who prepared the pyre – and draws a vivid picture of a man who is unapologetic in tone, citing the notion of loyalty, oathbreaking and service that are central in Tolkien's work. Yet Branwyn equally vividly shows us, in a masterful last line, the uneasiness that lies behind the servant's defiance. A perceptive drabble, extremely well executed.

Reviewed by: Llinos  ✧  Score: 4

It is hard for us in the modern world to truly understand the position of the common servant, obeying without question, at whatever cost. But in the bygone days of master and servant, it would be a disloyal and treacherous serf who would question his orders. That this poor man loved Faramir, made it harder for him to not intervene and that he now drowns his sorrows is understandable. A well drawn and observed character, showing an understanding of the servant/master relationship most readers and writers of fanfic miss.

Reviewed by: annmarwalk  ✧  Score: 3

Loyalty, fear, guilt - I can very easily imagine the thoughts that have been going through this courtier's mind; not only during the horrific events of the siege but the reflective time afterward. I hope that Faramir will be able to help him expiate his guilt, and that he will be able to find a measure of peace.

Reviewed by: Dreamflower  ✧  Score: 3

I've often wondered how those servants must have felt, ordered to help Denethor commit suicide and murder. This rings true--he dare not disobey, but perhaps wine will help him forget.

Reviewed by: Súlriel  ✧  Score: 2

This is a wonderfully painful and emotional view of someone in a difficult situation. Indeed, it begs the question, "what would *you* have done?" There is no easy answer. Well done.

Reviewed by: Imhiriel  ✧  Score: 2

Very well-handled emotions, realistic and plausible. Unusual, thought-provoking perspective. Well-structured narrative.