Stewards of Gondor: Genverse Arc
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Father and Sons: 13. Stand Divided
It was quite silent as Faramir stepped over the threshold, closed the door, and made his way across the room under Denethor's balefully impassive stare. Even Boromir's presence seemed muted as Faramir halted at his brother's side. To all eyes but knowing ones, he seemed composed enough after his initial moment of shocked startlement, but from long experience, the steward knew the cut and drape of guilt on both his sons. And at the moment, both were shrouded by it. Denethor eyed them both, letting each feel the weight of his opprobrium ere he spoke in a clipped, precise tone. "I had hoped that with time, both of you would outgrow such nonsense, but it seems I was mistaken. Time has cured you of nothing but any sense of shame." Boromir had the good grace to blush at least, but Faramir's eyes hardened, although he seemed rather paler than usual at the reprimand. He said nothing, but the defenses that had sprung instantly to life from the moment the younger man had realized what he had interrupted grew the tighter, the more inscrutable, and Denethor gazed hard at him. And what else have you done, o son of mine?
Alerted by the librarians of Boromir's transgression, Denethor had determinedly done his own research, just as planned, being very careful to use all the time that he had allotted himself for that task. Yet his thoughts had been black as he had waded through the sea of information. When at length the chime of bells had announced the appointed hour, he had closed his book, handed his own list to the librarians, and then gone straight to the palantír, wrath washing hotly about his innards. The Seeing Stone's visions had been predictably violent that evening, until at length the steward's anger had cooled to its customary iciness. Once his control had been restored, the chaotic swirl of images had subsided to a calm flickering, and he had been able to watch Boromir search frantically through Mardil's Books only to leave empty-handed... and he had watched his meeting with Faramir later on and wondered what his second son's veiled yet intense look had meant. No more had the stone shown, for Denethor could stomach no more. Faramir's involvement in this was clear, but what he had seen was not enough to answer the question that burned in Denethor's mind: had it been Boromir's idea to search the steward's collection, or had he acted upon Faramir's urging? And at the moment, I cannot decide which possibility is more distasteful to me! At least I need not pry an admission from Boromir ere I confront Faramir. What a stroke of luck, that! Denethor thought sourly, flicking his glance back to Boromir as Faramir lowered his eyes at last. "Have you naught to say, either of you? Even when you break the decrees not only of your father but of your lord?" he demanded when neither of his sons spoke in response.
"What would you have me say, my lord?" Boromir asked at length, voice taut, yet oddly soft. "You have my apology, that I broke your commandment. Doubtless you shall deal with me as you see fit." His elder son could not quite look him in the face as he spoke, and the steward felt his jaw clench as he turned now upon Faramir, who was watching Boromir with hooded eyes.
"Faramir!" he snapped.
"My lord?" the younger man replied, his tone leeched of emotion. Denethor stared at him, and the blank wall of the other's guarded appraisal seemed to him to hide more than simply fear. Too careful you are; you are not innocent in this, wretched boy! In that instant, Faramir seemed to his father a younger version of Imrahil, or that other who had troubled Denethor's youth, and it needed a moment for the steward to control his tone of voice.
"There are reasons why I allow few, and certainly not you, Faramir, into Mardil's collection. I will thank you in the future not to challenge my judgment in this. But you were ever a prier into matters that did not concern you, lad," the steward said in a deadly smooth tone, and the authoritative crack to his voice as he continued seemed but the louder for it. "I would have thought, however, that you would at least not drag others into your willful disobedience!" Faramir's darkened eyes glittered at that, widening as he sucked in a breath and stiffened. Beside him, Boromir jerked his head up to stare first at Denethor, then at his brother.
"I never led another astray, father!" Faramir protested.
"'Tis true, he would tell me nothing—" Boromir spoke up, clearly agitated by this turn of events. But Denethor seemed not to hear him, so closely was his attention focused on his younger son.
"Did you not? I know you better than that: ever you desire to know what does not concern you, and you would use others to gain that knowledge. You crept into Mardil's Books with Mithrandir twice, that I remember well enough, and you conferred ever with your uncle on matters you would not bring to me. There is much you would hide from me!"
"Accuse me falsely or make of me the worst knave you can imagine, rightly or wrongly, but do not you ever mistake me for that timid child!" Faramir shot back, and Boromir winced slightly, while Denethor stared, unfathomable in his silence. After a moment's heated pause, the younger man continued on, voice still taut with anger, "It is overlate to complain that I bring nothing to you, my father, and well do we both know it. I bring you what is your business, and ask for no more than to be told what I must know in order to act for Gondor's good. Imrahil would tell you gladly that I ask no more and no less of him when the occasion arises," Faramir replied, slithering out of a direct response to that last accusation. The steward continued to gaze at him as the light in the other's eyes began to fade before that chilly reception, and his own angry disappointment sang bitterly through his breast. On some level, Denethor realized that Faramir could never have answered that charge, but tonight, the evasion was merely another reason to mistrust his second son.
"I see," he replied at length and coldly. "Remember, Faramir, that you swore me an oath to do and to let be at my command. I have told you before never to seek knowledge among Mardil's Books, for there is much there that ought not to be revealed to casual and impertinent curiosity. When I gave that restriction, I meant not that you should look to another to do for you what was forbidden you!"
"He had no part in that, Father," Boromir protested again, cutting his brother off ere he could further damage his credibility in Denethor's eyes. "And I think you do not understand the need that this dream instills in us."
So they both stand now together against me! The thought rang chill within the closed corridors of Denethor's mind, and though a part of him quailed to realize that the gap had opened at last between himself and Boromir, habit and the need of the moment put the words in his mouth and into the air ere he could think better of them. "Do I not? In such matters as dreams, Boromir, you are but a novice. Therefore hold your tongue!" Boromir caught his breath, momentarily stymied to find himself on the vicious end of Denethor's tongue, and for an instant, he stared in shock.
"Then as you have the advantage of experience, why can you not understand that we may not let this matter lie, father?" Faramir forced his way back into the conversation then, and Boromir stepped on the urge to throttle him. Be silent, brother mine! It was not usually his way to urge another to surrender, but he had not spent the past twenty-four years in the field without learning to distinguish surrender from a tactical retreat. Faramir, though, seemed not to have learned that lesson, or else he had forgotten it tonight. Or perhaps, Boromir thought suddenly, perhaps he simply does not understand Father in this. This is the point at which they diverge—I think he does not understand father's refusal to understand. For there was in Faramir's voice a note, as of utter bewilderment, that underlay the anger, as if he simply could not comprehend Denethor's cruelty, and it pained his older brother to hear it. Usually, Faramir was better able to hide his hurt from Denethor, but tonight.... What is wrong with the lot of us of late? Boromir wondered. This is not right! Father never tried us both at once, and I have never seen him like this before! He gritted his teeth, despairing as he saw the flat, leaden look of Denethor's eyes and their father leveled a darkly disgusted stare upon his younger son.
"The matter does not lie idle, Faramir! I have said I would see to it, and I do. I require nothing more of you than your obedience. Since you choose not to give it but to blunder on in your misplaced pride, I will speak with you further on this matter tomorrow. With both of you," Denethor promised, quelling all protests with a look. With that, the Steward of Gondor turned and swept out of the room, leaving his sons to stare after him. For several moments, neither of them moved, but then Faramir made a noise between rage and disbelief, and sank down upon the nearest chair. Elbows leaned upon his knees, he bowed his head and let his hands dangle limply between his legs, his whole posture bespeaking dejected frustration. And much though it tore at him to see Faramir's thinly veiled humiliation, Boromir was just incredulous enough to be angry with him as well.
"That went well," he muttered sarcastically, shaking his head as he ran his hands back through his long hair, raking at the dark strands with claw-like fingers. "Could you not have held your peace for once, Faramir?"
"What peace have I to hold? He thinks I drove you to bluster your way into Mardil's Books!" Faramir said, voice thick with irony. "Ever he turns to me for an explanation when I have none to give, and will not hear me when it is my place to speak! Of course he would never look to you to fall so low, save at my urging!"
"At least he does not think you gullible! And I need not to be reminded of childhood faults any more than did you, so speak not with that voice, Faramir!" Boromir snapped back, irritated with the other's tone, which seemed to suggest that Faramir, at least, had no cause to overestimate him. Or worse, that perhaps it is impossible to underestimate me either! That did not sit well with Boromir at all.
His brother snorted with fine contempt, however, and tossed a wry look at him, "Fear not, brother! You remain superior to me in all matters, rest assured of that. I cannot even meddle in father's affairs without your example, nor admit my fault before Denethor. He was right to suspect me, but for the wrong reason!" To which oblique confession, Boromir merely cocked a skeptical brow, awaiting further elaboration. Faramir sighed and continued, "I went to look for your missing page."
"The missing—where, Faramir?"
"In Father's study." And when Boromir simply stared at him in mute astonishment, he sighed again. "I thought he might have taken it, for truly, who else would take a page out of a book listed on the open codex if not Father?"
"Begin again at the beginning, Faramir," Boromir managed after a moment. "What is the open codex?"
"You complained of the difficulty of using the indices of works," Faramir replied, his tone shifting wearily to what his men called his 'lecture voice.' "There are two indices, two codices, the open and the closed. The open one is a general index of works that are rare but not dangerous. The closed one, though, is in the keeping of the librarians, and only upon request will they surrender it. Upon those sheets, you will find those works that Father fears I would read, given the chance. And perhaps also some of the books that you sought in vain, for it seems Imladris may have secrets that are not meant to be widely known, even among the high of the land."
"And you told me nothing of this?"
"I told you nothing, Boromir, because I never thought you would have cause to use such knowledge!" Faramir snapped in a resurgence of choler. "How was I to know you would brazen your way past the librarians? Had I known you would try, I would at least have warned you about leaving a list for them of the works you read. But even I know not what lies in the codices, open or closed. Even now, we know not whether works concerning Imladris are listed in the closed codex or merely lost to us."
"Nay, we do not know," Boromir replied heavily. Of a sudden he felt quite weary—weary of riddles and double-talk, weary to death of secrecy. Going over to the chair opposite Faramir he collapsed into it, disgruntled, still somewhat dazed by Faramir's admission. "You broke into Father's study... in search of a piece of paper!" he repeated slowly. His brother merely shrugged, seeming to have no defense to offer, and for a time, that ended their conversation. He needs not my recriminations, after all! Boromir thought, absently twining a strand of his hair about his forefinger as he mused in silence. At length, though, he sighed and said, "You found nothing, I take it. Not even notes?"
"Nothing at all. But he has it. He must, who else would want it?" Faramir said, pausing a moment, and his eyes got that distant, vaguely unfocused look that meant he was seeking after something in his mind. Likely a list of suspects! Boromir thought, waiting for the other to return to the present. Fortunately for his rather strained patience, his brother needed but a moment more, and then he shook his head. "No, I can think of no one else. But I know not where he might have it hidden, unless he took it to the top floor...."
"Do not even think of it, Faramir!" Boromir interjected as his brother's expression grew speculative once more. "Had he known what you were about, I hesitate to imagine what he might have said or done. Nothing rash or in haste, but certainly you would have suffered for it. At least in this, he is mistaken, and perhaps he even knows it. But had he come down through his study instead of taking the outer stair—"
"Then he might be less angry in the end, for he expects nothing good of me. You know I speak truly, Boromir," Faramir added, seeing the pained look on his brother's face. "In this matter, I do but confirm his dislike of me. He should thank me for that, truly!" he laughed, in bitter jest.
"Be hush, Faramir!" Boromir snapped back, feeling his alarm begin to grow again in the face of his brother's disaffection. Surprise at his unexpected vehemence, perhaps, quieted the other, and Boromir continued intently, "Self-pity does not become you."
"Nevertheless, we all wallow in it at some point. If you prefer, I can go do so alone," Faramir offered in a more subdued voice. Which magnanimous offer was very nearly too tempting to pass up, for truly, Boromir had no more heart for company this evening, having his own shame to work through. Nevertheless he sighed in exasperation and pressed thumb and forefinger hard against his brow, feeling the throb of a headache building.
"Do not be perverse," he muttered. "We are caught in the same snare, after all. I only wish I knew what Father will do now."
"I know not. Valar...!" That last word came out as a sighing exhalation, and his brother raised troubled eyes to Boromir's, gazing rather shame-facedly at him. "I am sorry, Boromir. I can make you no excuse for my behavior."
"Best you mend your self-discipline ere dawn, then, for tomorrow shall be worse," Boromir replied, by way of gloomy certainty and warning.
"Is it not ever of late? Ah well. I think I shall take my leave," his brother heaved himself to his feet with less than his usual grace. "There is no point in dwelling further on this, and I think for the moment we do but drag each other further into a mire."
"Good night then." Faramir nodded in response, and turned, heading for the door. Just ere he reached it, though, Boromir spoke again: "Faramir?" His brother hesitated a moment, turning back, although his hand lay already upon the door handle.
Boromir grimaced slightly, then said, "I am sorry about this. I should never have involved you by telling you. I should not have gone at all, but I felt as though... as though...."
"As though you had to do something," Faramir finished quietly for him. "Me, too. Good night, Boromir."
"Be dreamless tonight!" Faramir only laughed softly at that as he retreated out the door, leaving Boromir alone to the contemplation of the trials that lay ahead. Alone he sat, with his mistrust of Denethor... and with the awful feeling that he had just been given a weapon in a war he ought not to be fighting. Seek for the Sword that was Broken/in Imladris it dwells... and there shall be shown a token/that Doom is nigh at hand.... Blinking against the sudden dimming of his vision, Boromir frowned and rubbed at his eyes. Doom... and Isildur's Bane. Gondor hangs by a thread and still Father withholds his judgment! 'Tis a simple enough matter—choose Faramir or me! Why hesitate in this, when in so much else Father sees clearly the path, even when others stumble? To that, he had no answer, and the frustration gnawed at his nerves 'til he could no longer stand to sit still. Pushing himself out of the chair, he began pacing—quick, nervous strides that did almost nothing to relieve his sense of restless anxiety.
What is wrong with us all? Denethor is indecisive and Faramir and I stoop to children's pranks in serious matters! What is this fear that plagues and pulls us apart? His mind returned to that question, which had haunted him since Denethor had first dismissed them to the consideration of who would go forth to find Imladris. Nay, earlier than that, for with each year, this darkness has crept upon us. I know its name: hopelessness. And yet there remain many below who know not that they stand as if naked before the storm of ... of Mordor. Even in thought, it was difficult to name the dark land to the east, but tonight, there could be no escaping it. For this miasma that lies upon us is more than our collective despair, I am certain of that. I think that Faramir, though he asks no more after the mood of this city, knows that as well, for he was ever more sensitive to such things. I would say it were the Enemy's willful contrivance, that he tries to govern our hearts as he controls the storms of the Mountains of Shadow. And we are too weak to resist!
That was a bitter thought, one that stang at his pride, but it pushed thought of Imladris firmly back into the forefront of his mind once more. Surely we would not be drawn to that place—lost to the sweep of time 'til now—only to be told with certainty that we are doomed. Surely there must be a grain of hope to be had, some matter that needs deciding, else why this dream? Yet the words themselves, what hope do they promise? A broken sword? A Halfling and Isildur's Bane—wherefore should I find any encouragement in such? And although he felt again the compulsion to go forth, he felt also a sort of dread-laden contempt that he could even consider such a course of action. I do grow desperate... as do we all, even Father. Perhaps especially Father, as I said to Faramir not so very long ago. Perhaps... perhaps he, like me, would not risk placing too much faith in these staves. And yet someone must go! Faramir's eyes, bright with anger and confusion, with the frustration of a believer denied the expression of his faith, flashed before his mind's eye, and Boromir sighed. He should ride north, he admitted in a moment of painful honesty. He deserves this task, for it was his dream originally. And yet I cannot leave this to him.
The precise reasoning behind that intuitive conclusion was distasteful enough that Boromir refused to allow it to reach his waking mind. But even as he sought his bed and such rest as an anxious mind and an early morning interview with a wrathful Denethor would permit, he could not quite suppress a grimace. For his heart knew its own workings, and there, where words did not reach, he knew the measure of his own selfishness. For Faramir already believed, but it would need more than a dream to rekindle hope in Boromir. It would need proof—tangible, visible, physical proof that this dream was trustworthy, that Gondor might yet be saved. And so, like a drowning man, he would pull down even his compatriots who had broken through the water's surface in order that he, too, could learn to breathe again.
Imrahil had gone down to the stables early, ere even the sun had risen, and with his captain of guard had crept out of Minas Tirith for a quick jaunt about the Pelennor. For after yesterday, I do not wish my day to begin with Denethor! the prince thought with grim amusement as he slapped the glossy grey neck of his faithful Celegaearon and reached into his belt pouch for an apple. The horse whiffled softly in appreciation and Imrahil chuckled as he rubbed Celegaearon's nose. "Well my lad, I shall leave you to your comfort and see you on the morrow. Or perhaps sooner than that!" Leaving his steed to the care of the waiting stable boy, he and Captain Aearos hiked back up the winding levels of the city, and Imrahil grinned, clapping the other man on the shoulder. "I am sorry to drag you from your bed, Aearos."
"No need for apologies, my prince, I am ever your servant."
"Yes, and in the mornings, a tired servant."
"Nay, not so, sire...!" Which convincing denial was undermined when Aearos yawned in spite of himself. At his prince's soft, yet not unsympathetic laughter, the captain sighed and, with exaggerated patience, said, "Laugh if you must, my lord prince! Some of us have difficulty sleeping in strange places." Clearly it was meant as something of a jest, a harmless enough complaint to act as an excuse. Upon hearing that, however, Imrahil paused and, with a touch, halted Aearos' progress as well.
"You have been to Minas Tirith a number of times and never complained of difficulty before, Aearos," the prince said, bending his suddenly sharp gaze upon the other man. "Tell me truly, had you trouble sleeping last night?"
Aearos grunted and rubbed his jaw, clearly unwilling to answer, but at length he nodded. "Aye, my prince. 'Tis naught to concern you," he added quickly, "I am quite well, and I can call upon the others should it affect my ability to perform my duties."
"Please," Imrahil gripped his shoulder. "I never doubted that! This has naught to do with your readiness, only with... call it intuition. Why could you not sleep? Did you dream?"
"If I did, I cannot remember aught. I simply felt... uneasy. I would wake time and again for no reason—not even for one of the younger lads creeping in from duty or pleasure. Is that of significance, sire?" Aearos asked, dark eyes searching his master's closed face. He had been the captain of Imrahil's personal guard for ten years, and a member of the prince's guard for eight years before that. He likely knew the prince as well as Lady Narendis did, and perhaps a bit better than even she, for Narendis never slept in ditches protecting her husband on campaign. He therefore knew well that look and tone of voice, and he wondered what trouble was brewing in the city.
"I cannot say yet. It may be naught, but do question the others gently, and see whether anyone else had the same difficulty."
"As you wish, sire," Aearos replied with a mental sigh. Evidently, he would get no answers this morning. Imrahil smiled slightly at his captain's silent disappointment, but continued on up to the Seventh Circle in silence. With an absent-minded nod at the guards, Imrahil, with Aearos at his heels, went swiftly to the south-eastern hall where lay the rooms of the steward, his heir, and several large guest suites reserved for family members and others of high rank. Denethor's study also lay along that corridor, and though the sun had just risen, Imrahil would not be surprised to learn that his brother-in-law was already at work. One could scarcely fault the man's industriousness, but though Imrahil was no less dedicated, he preferred to let the day begin ere he turned his attention to business. One must have some time to oneself and for one's family, after all, the prince thought, wondering whether Narendis had awakened yet. His wife preferred to sleep later than did he, but she tended to rise with him when he was at Dol Amroth. Lothíriel was another heavy sleeper in the morning. In fact, thinking about it, he seemed the only one of his family who naturally enjoyed the dawn. Except for Finduilas. She and I would always sneak out to greet the day from horseback together!
That memory brought with it a wave of sorrow, and no little resentment toward the present Steward of Gondor. One of the first indications Imrahil had had that there was aught amiss with his sister had been on the occasion of her first visit home. Finduilas had retired at her usual hour, but slept like the dead until nearly midday, which was hardly her custom. He might have shrugged the incident off and attributed it to the fatigue of a long journey, but that she had continued to sleep late for the length of her stay, rousing only once to greet the dawn with her brother. And she would not tell me what was wrong. She would never tell me aught specific about her husband for fear that I would do something rash. And though Imrahil had protested that decision, knowing himself for a reasonable man, in the end, he had had to admit that she was probably justified in keeping her secrets. Denethor and I dislike each other enough as it is. If I had memory of Finduilas' grievances, I might have trouble with my temper, for I.... Imrahil paused, slowing as he neared the steward's study. Aearos halted as well, though out of habit, he let his momentum carry him a pace or two ahead of his prince, the better to shield him against any threat. But it was no sense of unseen danger that had brought the prince to a standstill; rather, it was the sound of raised voices coming from the steward's study. Aearos heard them, too, and turned quizzically towards the prince, his face filled with questions.
"Wait a moment," Imrahil murmured, stepping past his captain and drifting towards the noise. Thick, heavy, oaken doors and stony walls muffled the argument, but the prince had sharp ears.
"... ever done that makes you distrust me so? If I go to unwonted lengths, it is because I must fight to learn what I need to know, let alone what I would wish to know! And how shall I tell the difference between the two if you will not be frank with me?" Faramir's voice, frustrated and more angry than Imrahil had ever heard, filtered through the barriers of wood and rock, and the prince caught his breath.
"Recall your intrusion into these quarters last night, Faramir!" Denethor's rejoinder came back. What is this? the prince wondered darkly, scrambling to try to put the pieces together.
"And did I not tell you of that this morning? I, like a fool, would tell you, for you are my father and my lord, and I was in the wrong! You needed not Boromir's testimony at all!" Another voice, much softer, sounded, but the prince could not make out what was said. Probably but a single word, for Faramir's voice rose swiftly after that, as if to cut his brother off. "Do not try to excuse yourself, either, Boromir. I know not why you think me so dishonest that you needed to run after him to tell my tale in my stead, but kindly do not try to ask my pardon now!"
"I never told him aught! Why will you not believe me?" Boromir's voice came back. There was then a very pregnant silence that went on for quite some time, and Imrahil could only imagine the scene within as the steward and his sons sought a measure of composure. When next the voices resumed, they were pitched too low and evenly for even the prince to overhear the words, but the tones were cue enough. What happened last night, I wonder? Imrahil's rooms were far enough down the hall that he would not have heard anything, but he berated himself nevertheless. He was about to move on, so as not to get caught in the middle, when suddenly the door opened and out came Faramir, his face flushed with wrath and humiliation, and his expression a mask that did nothing to hide his anger. The steward's second son closed the door with exaggerated care so as not to slam it, and then stood there for several moments, head bowed, seeking after self-control. After a while, he looked up, calmer, though his eyes still glittered angrily, and then he turned to go back towards the stairs. It was only then that he noticed his uncle standing there, sweaty in his older riding clothes, and Faramir blinked in surprise. And then his mouth tightened as color crept into his cheeks once again in spite of himself.
"Uncle," he murmured, voice smooth enough, but with just that edge of embarrassed anguish to give him away.
"Faramir," Imrahil replied, watching him, waiting. When his nephew said naught, he sighed softly. "Lad, do not be your father's son to me. I am not Denethor."
"How much did you overhear?" Faramir demanded in a low, resigned voice.
"Quite enough. Whither are you bound now?" Imrahil asked as the younger man sighed and pressed past him, apparently intent upon leaving ere he could be questioned further.
"Father gave me an errand that will take me out of the city for a few days. If you would speak with me, send to Osgiliath. There is some... recovery work... that needs doing, and I must be about it. Good day, Uncle!" Faramir called, without a single glance backward.
Imrahil and Aearos exchanged incredulous stares, but there was naught the prince could do, short of running after his nephew. And I think me that that is not the best course right now. His dignity is strained enough that it will not bear another confrontation, even... or especially... with me! Aloud he said, "Come, Aearos. I must make ready for my own interview, and I would have you send one of your lads to Boromir with a message. Whatever this is, it has gone too far!"
"... has gone too far," Denethor was saying as Boromir bit back a bitter response. "Were you not my heir, I would send you to Cair Andros for a time to think about your actions, but I cannot afford you both absent for this council. Therefore be warned: you will not speak, you will not argue, and you will do precisely as you are told if you wish to be reinstated as a participating member."
"I do as you command, my lord, but if you look askance at me for having kept my brother's secret, then why may I not question you for having said naught in my defense?" That he had himself as early as this morning contemplated using Faramir's guilty actions against his brother in the matter of Imladris only made his anger with Denethor the worse for his private shame. And I still cannot fathom how he learned of that! For Faramir's confession had been greeted not with wrath or surprise, but a rather contemptuous dismissal. "That I knew already, Faramir, so do not waste now my time!" Denethor had said, shocking both his sons. And then Faramir had shot Boromir a look of utter betrayal, and the arguments had begun in earnest. Boromir would have given much to know how their father had managed to uncover Faramir's trespassing, for the steward's knowledge of that matter suggested a network even more extensive than Boromir had ever dreamt. Alas, if he had been unsuccessful in his search of Mardil's Books, then any endeavor to discover Denethor's informants was doomed to failure. And that is not the point of this anyway! "I never told you of his search for that Valar-accursed paper, yet you let him assume that I did! Why, Father?"
"Because, my son, the two of you together hatch too many plots, clearly!"
"What plots we hatched were conceived separately, Father! I am not Faramir's lackey, nor he mine, to follow ever where bidden! I may share my thoughts with my brother, but for my actions I answer only to the Steward of Gondor," Boromir grated.
"See to it that you remember that, then! For even now you tread at the very edge of your oath, for I do not answer to you for my decisions."
"But you must answer me as your son, surely! I see what you do: you seek to punish me, so you drive now a wedge between Faramir and me by allowing him to think that I betrayed him. Is it not enough that you drove one between yourself and Faramir?" Boromir demanded, knowing that he but dug himself deeper into the mire, but for years now he had watched his father and brother snap at each other in private and ignore each other in public. And he was sick of it—thoroughly sick of all the bickering and cloakroom family politics, and the words spilled out of him uncontainably, tasting faintly of vomit. "He would be your son, Father, but you will not let him!" Thank all the Valar Faramir did go to Ithilien, or it would be worse! I do but make this worse, but Valar, I am in enough trouble already. As for Faramir...well, he can hardly fall any further from grace!
"I never drove aught between us. I did what was necessary to chastise a weak prop!"
"A weak...?" Boromir spluttered. "Faramir was never weak, Father! Why can you not see that, who are accounted so wise? And if you love me so well, how can you stand here and torture one whom I love before my eyes?" Denethor's hands on the back of his chair went white at the knuckles at that as the steward clenched the wood hard, but he never blinked. And before that blank, deadly gaze, Boromir felt his wrath beginning to ebb, to be replaced with dread and a hopeless sort of frustration. He will never see it! Never! He will never learn to see his fault in the matter of my brother! He would sooner die than acknowledge himself to be in the wrong!
"Go to your duties, Captain of Gondor, and return when your temper is cooler," Denethor said simply, but Boromir flinched nonetheless. And then cursed inwardly for having done so. How has Faramir withstood this for so long? he wondered, even as he made his father the most grudging bow of his life and turned to stalk angrily out the door. Returning to his quarters, he dismissed his esquire curtly, scarcely heeding the lad's stammered, "But my lord, your uncle's man said to tell you—!"
"Out! Now! Take the day and return by nightfall only," Boromir cut him off and shot the bolt on the door behind the fleeing lad. Solitude at last! Although Denethor had just stripped him of the right to participate in the council, he had still to be present to listen, and that meant he had still quite a lot to read ere the day was done. He did not want to think about what Faramir would endure. 'Recovery work' indeed! Images of drowned and broken bodies filled his sight for a moment, and he closed his eyes against them. Anduin never gave up her secrets gratefully, and it would be a hard task to raise those who had but the riverbed for their grave. My poor brother! And I dare not spare you a thought today, for if I do, I shall never finish with my own chores. So resolved, he banished Faramir from his mind as best he could, and turned reluctantly to the piled documents on his desk. It would be a very long council session indeed....
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