From Faramir’s expedition to Osgiliath to the end of the chapter
“You cannot enter here. . . . Go back to the abyss prepared for you! Go back! Fall into the nothingness that awaits you and your Master. Go!”
The next morning, Denethor sends Faramir to protect the outlying ruins of Osgiliath, where Mordor’s armies are likely to strike first. Faramir dutifully accepts the perilous—possibly suicidal—assignment from his father. News arrives the following morning of a battle for the nearby Pelennor Fields.
The Lord of the Nazgûl, the Black Captain against whom none can stand, leads the armies from Mordor. Gandalf rides off toward Osgiliath to help fight the Black Captain. The wizard returns the next day, leading many wounded men. Faramir remains at Pelennor, trying to hold his men together to execute a safe retreat.
Not long after, the armies of Mordor approach Minas Tirith. Thousands of black-clad Men and Orcs stream onto the plains. A small, beleaguered ensemble rides before them—the last of Gondor’s rearguard in retreat. Lord Denethor, clad in armor, sends a small army of horsemen out to protect the retreat. Gandalf rides among them, using his white fire to deter the front lines of the Enemy. The retreating men reach the city safely, but one of the Nazgûl’s poisoned arrows strikes Faramir.
Sauron’s armies besiege the city in a vale of fire, cutting off all roads. They use huge catapults to lob blazing missiles into the first ring of the city. As the forces of Minas Tirith try to put these fires out, they realize to their horror that the Enemy’s missiles are the burning heads of those who have died defending Osgiliath.
Stricken with sudden bitterness and grief, Denethor locks himself in the Tower with Faramir, who is now delirious with fever from his arrow wound. Pippin looks on as Denethor weeps, cursing Gandalf and bewailing the end of his lineage as Steward of Gondor. As Denethor is holed up, Gandalf takes over the defense of Minas Tirith. The army of Mordor launches an attack on the outer wall of the city. Denethor instructs the desperate messengers who arrive in his court that everyone in the city should give up and burn in the fires.
Denethor calls for his servants. He has Faramir carried out of the Citadel to the Hall of Kings, where Gondor’s leaders are laid to rest. Denethor places Faramir on a marble table and calls for dry wood and a torch. Pippin warns the servants not to obey Denethor’s orders, as it is clear that the Steward has gone mad. Pippin breaks the rule of the Tower Guard by leaving his post. He sends Beregond up to the Hall of Kings to try to intervene with Denethor, and then the hobbit goes in frantic search of Gandalf.