I do not own AtS or LOTR, as they belong to people far, far richer than me.I.
Lindsey blinked, still stunned by the proposition that Manners had outlined for him only moments before. He tried to collect himself quickly, aware of the intense scrutiny lurking under his employer’s calm gaze. Manners’ lips twitched slightly as he continued, the very picture of calm and reason.
“This would, of course, have to be a discreet operation. Our client in this dimension is rather picky about whom he reveals himself to, so I trust that his name will be…left out in any negotiations? You will, naturally, receive a hefty bonus. And rest assured that your place here at Wolfram and Hart will still be open to you, upon your successful return.”
Lindsey put on his best fake smile and took the file Manners had offered him, ignoring the underlying, but ever-present threat in his superior’s words.
“You will have nothing to worry about Mr. Manners,” he replied, exuding confidence - it was a skill you picked up quickly at Wolfram and Hart if you wanted to live.
“I’m sure our client will be most satisfied.”
And with that remark, Manners left Lindsey’s office just as suddenly as he had appeared in it. Lindsey stared at the file in his hands, mulling over his newest assignment and Manners’ words. Any client with a name like Sauron, he supposed, would be hesitant to reveal himself. He just hoped this mission would not take to long. It wouldn’t do to have Lilah round up more points with Manners while he was absent.II.
Lindsey fingered the edges of his rich black robes for what felt like the hundredth time. Just his luck that the dimension he had been sent to was some backwater world where the fastest transportation was either by boat or horses. Idly he wondered what was so important about this dimension that had necessitated Wolfram and Hart’s personal involvement. After working for them for so long, Lindsey was under no illusions as to what type of clients his law firm pandered to. Still, Lindsey could not figure out what was so important about delivering a smooth black stone to one of Sauron’s strongest rivals. Or rather, what was so important about it that he
had to be the one delivering it?
He glanced at the cloth covered package at his side once more; resisting the urge to look at the orb again, a palantir
, the guys at the archives had called it. He tried to focus instead on the gently lolling waves as the boat he was on made its way upriver for the appointment he had with this country’s ruler.
As his thoughts were increasingly consumed by the smooth, polished surface of the palantir
, Lindsey began to get an inkling of why Sauron wanted it presented to the Ruling Steward of Gondor.III.
Had Lindsey been any less of a professional, his jaw would have dropped at the sight of the White City rising up before him. Lindsey had seen many wonders and many more horrors while working for the firm, but none had him as captivated as the sight sprawling before him.
It was magnificent in its conception, carved out of the very mountain, a monument of what these people were able to achieve with tools primitive by Lindsey’s standards. It was a light shining out through the darkness that threatened to engulf this world.
Lindsey had a sudden vision of the city burning under siege, its towers crumbling and its people dying. But as Lindsey’s carriage drew closer to the gates and his vision cleared, he noticed the signs of decay and neglect, evidence of too many years of hardship and war.
The walls were not the bright white that they appeared to be under the afternoon sun and he could see parts of the wall lying crumbled and broken beside the road. Smothering his annoyance and the disquiet his uncharacteristic thoughts brought him, Lindsey turned away from the sight of the approaching city and stared once more at the package he was supposed to deliver.
His thoughts were broken by a sudden jolt the carriage gave as it made its way to the gates. He suppressed the unexpected surge of anger he felt for this dimension and these people who couldn’t provide him with something as simple as a comfortable carriage ride. Lindsey resisted the urge to glance at the package or the city, impatient for the end of this miserable journey.IV.
Lindsey’s skin was crawling at the silence surrounding him. Ever since he had entered the city it was as though he had been cast into a tomb. The few living people he had seen reminded him more of walking corpses, their empty eyes staring at him accusingly. The streets were silent and empty; the guards that were escorting him to the Steward were grim, sharp reflections of the mood permeating Minas Tirith.
As Lindsey walked between them, he wondered if his imagination was running away with him. Surely no city could be so silent, so…dead? There should have been at least some noise in a city of this size, no matter how quiet its people were. Time seemed to slow and all Lindsey could hear was the sound of his own harsh breathing and all he could feel was the phantom taste of ashes on his tongue. He clutched the bag in which the palantir
was safely hidden more tightly. The creaking of its leather sounded far too loud amidst the oppressive silence.
“My lord, are you alright?”
Lindsey started at the guard’s concerned voice. He drew a deep breath and nodded sharply, dismissing the guard.
Time resumed its course and the city around him became alive with sound.V.
The Stewards eyes were cold and piercing, his face set in hard lines underneath a mask of politeness. Lindsey resisted the urge to fidget under the calculating stare. He maintained his own mask, the one he used in courts and in the firm. It was a deceptively pleasant mask that made people turn their backs to him while he held a knife.
As the silence between them stretched on, under the watchful gazes of the guards, servants and other courtiers, Lindsey was suddenly grateful for the training he had undergone at Wolfram and Hart to block any attempts at mind reading. While he could feel nothing like the usual intrusions, Lindsey could not shake the impression that the Steward was trying to read his mind and what was left of his soul.
Finally, the Steward leaned back against his black stone chair, his face giving away no sign of his thoughts. He motioned for Lindsey to explain his presence with the hand that wore a great obsidian ring. Lindsey’s thoughts flickered to the same smooth blackness of the palantir
in the bag by his side.
Lifting his gaze back to the stone cold one of the Ruling Steward of Gondor, Denethor son of Ecthelion, Lindsey suddenly understood why Sauron had not sent one of his own agents to make the delivery. The Steward would have seen through them at a glance. The realization made him hesitate, but Denethor’s stare was unrelenting.
Lindsey smothered the abrupt and unreasonable spark of anger and hate that rose within him, hiding it before it gave him away. This time when he spoke, the lies he had been told to say came easily to his lips.
When the Steward showed a glimmer of interest in his tale, Lindsey suppressed the smirk that threatened to emerge. He wondered if the Steward’s gaze would shatter and break if he stared into the abyss of the palantir
long enough. Lindsey found that the thought didn’t bother him.VI.
It was finally over, his tedious mission accomplished. He would be making his journey back the next day. Lindsey hoped that it would be considerably shorter than the one he had taken to arrive here. But for now, he was looking down over the people of the city, standing at the farthest edge of the high terrace of the cliff found on the uppermost level of Minas Tirith. Had he cared to glance behind, Lindsey would have seen the dead white tree, surrounded by its silent guards. But he had found the tree unsettling to look at and its guards an eerie echo of the silence that had plagued him when he had first entered the city.
When he turned to head back to his assigned chambers, Lindsey paused when he saw a child standing before the white tree. The child was looking at the tree with reverence, as silent and still as the guards around him. Lindsey stared at the scene for a long moment, unwilling to draw attention to himself.
As though sensing his gaze, the child turned to look at him and Lindsey recognized him as the son of the Steward from the files that had been provided for the mission. Lindsey suppressed a shudder as the sea grey eyes of the little boy bored into him. It was the same stare that his father had, but lacking the suspicion and distrust.
Lindsey sneered at the kid and turned away, heading for the refuge of his chambers, trying to squash down the conflicting emotions within him.
The stone corridors were silent and cold as he passed through them. Lindsey wondered if the boy would become just as silent as the people in his vision if his mission had the repercussions he thought it would. And remembering the innocent gaze of the child, so similar and yet so different from his father’s, for the first time since this mission began, Lindsey felt regret.Fin