Banjoverse: The Full Epic
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Adraefan: 20. The Houses of Healing
Ever since his brother’s arrival, Faramir had also spent many hours waiting at his bedside with Pippin. The Man never stirred, and while Pippin would look for solutions by talking or light jostling, Faramir would lean back in his chair and stare. In the first instant Faramir had seen Boromir again, his heart had nearly burst with mingled shock, disgust and relief. His brother was alive. His brother had been tortured in Barad-dûr, and was so consumed now by scars and bandages as to be unrecognizable. But his brother was alive. And so Faramir, too, waited with Pippin. Staring. Trying, in vain, to accustom himself to this wasted-away version of Boromir. Occasionally, the Lady Éowyn would arrive and, casting sorrowful glances towards the wounded Man, coax Faramir from the room. In those moments, Pippin would sit alone.
It was really a pity, the hobbit thought, considering what beautiful days these were. Once the power of Mordor was destroyed, Minas Tirith had enjoyed a week of constant sunshine. These were warm, pleasant days when the smell of flowers drifted in from the open window, and Pippin would inhale greedily, filling his lungs with the sweet perfume. The smell of life. Of peace, of calm, of relief. He missed the Shire. But Minas Tirith was beautiful, in its own way, as it began its slow recovery from a lifetime of war.
Sometimes, when sure that Boromir would not mind, Pippin would retrieve his pipe. He would lean out the window, smoking lazily, watching the traffic into and out of the Houses of Healing.
Bandaged soldiers, helped by maids and Wardens, limped around the gravel paths. Every so often, if Pippin recognized a soldier from the Citadel Guard, he would call down with a smile and a wave. Even with the smoke and shouted conversations, Boromir never awoke. Pippin became so used to the silent, bandaged figure in the bed that he often forgot it was a living being.
And so it startled him when Boromir finally moved.
It happened after eleven days, on April the ninth. Pippin was sitting in his usual chair, eating a meal of bread, cheese and sweetmeats that the nurses always offered him, when Boromir moved his arm with a long, soft moan. Pippin froze. He stopped chewing his sweetmeat and stared. The Man dragged his right arm around and seemed to come slowly awake, his entire body shifting and stirring. Pippin nearly dropped his food in surprise. His heart pounded. So long had Boromir remained perfectly still that to see him now, conscious and moving, was terrifying.
The Man grumbled something and knocked his hand against his head, as if he wanted to touch his brow but was unable to control his limbs. Pippin shoved the food away and dived from the chair. He rushed to Boromir’s side, almost stumbling in his excitement.
“Boromir? Boromir?” Pippin asked. “Boromir? Are you awake? Can you hear me? Boromir?”
Boromir groaned again, attempted to pull up his other arm, which was heavily bandaged and pinned against his chest. He seemed to want to do something, to say something, but was having great difficulty. Pippin grasped the Man’s hand with both of his.
“What is it? Boromir, can you hear me? Do you need something? Boromir? It’s Pippin. Should I get someone? Boromir?”
The Man’s eyes fluttered open. They roamed around the room for a moment before settling on Pippin. Pippin felt hot tears prick his eyes. He smiled, squeezed Boromir’s hand. He’s awake! Awake! Thank the Valar! A few tears fell and Pippin brushed them away. Boromir was staring at him, perplexed. Pippin suddenly felt ashamed. Does he even remember me?
Boromir’s face twisted. His chest began to rise and fall with short, quick gasps. Something was wrong. He stared at Pippin in absolute alarm as the hobbit moved forward, took a seat on the bed.
“Boromir? What is it?”
Whatever grasp Boromir had on his calm, it snapped in that moment. His breathing grew labored. He struggled away, garbling strange words that the hobbit could not understand. Pippin stood up in alarm. Boromir pushed himself back against the wall, clutching the bed with both of his hands. He looked completely terrorized, and Pippin did not know what to do.
Uneasy and growing scared, Pippin held his hands up.
“It’s Pippin… Pip. Remember?”
“Dead,” Boromir croaked. His voice sounded raw and unused. “You are dead. Why…? Stay back! I cannot tell you anything!”
The Man had his back to the wall, and Pippins saw the starved muscles trembling with exertion. Irregular red spots dotted the bandages around the Man’s torso and stomach, and when Boromir saw these, he began to scream with such ferocity that Pippin nearly screamed as well. The Man tore, he ripped, he thrashed at his bandages, trying desperately to undo the thick knots, all the while bawling madly. Pippin stood frozen, unable to move in his horror. Only when Boromir managed to rip off the bandage on his stomach to reveal a black, gaping hole, bloodied and infected and oozing, scorched and ruined, then did Pippin run from the room.
“Help! Help!” he cried as he dashed down the corridor. He collided with the wise-woman, Ioreth. “Come quick! It is Boromir! He has awoken mad!”
Ioreth said nothing but hurried after Pippin back to the room. On the way, she beckoned to two young guards. The Warden, who was just coming down the stairs, saw the group rushing towards Boromir’s room and joined them.
When they arrived, Boromir was cowering in the corner of the room. The sheets were stained with blood, and drops of it trailed from the bed to the corner where Boromir now sat, huddled. He had buried his head in his shoulders and was sobbing hysterically. Everyone stopped in the doorway. Pippin nearly gasped. Boromir did not notice them for several moments, and, in that silence, they could hear his sharp intakes and whimpering pleas.
“Lord Boromir?” Ioreth asked.
His head snapped up and he quailed. He began to push himself further into the corner, as if hoping it should envelop him entirely. Ioreth stepped forward. Pippin trailed at her heels. He felt the desire to hide behind her, for the scene was too frightening, too alien. This is not Boromir! His mind raced. He remembered Boromir as he had been – sparring with the hobbits amongst wooded thickets when the Company rested; arguing for the Gap of Rohan, arguing to take the Ring to Gondor; proud, strong, noble, intimidating. This cowering, weeping figure was not Boromir. It could not be.
“Stay back!” Boromir howled as Ioreth and Pippin approached.
“My lord, be easy,” Ioreth soothed. “We mean to help you. You are in the Houses of Healing of Minas Tirith. Peace…”
Boromir shook his head wildly, pressed himself further against the wall.
“Where – where is Third One?” he stammered hoarsely.
“We do not know, my lord,” Ioreth whispered. She was moving closer, closer, and he continued to squeeze himself further into the corner, sucking in his breath. Pippin caught a view of the stomach wound again, and he looked away.
“My lord,” the Warden spoke now. “You are weary. Come, let us bind your wounds.”
Boromir’s eyes flickered madly from Ioreth, to the Warden, to Pippin, to the guards. He trembled, the sweat on his chest catching the light in uneven tremors. As Ioreth reached out her hand, Boromir snapped: “Do not touch me!”
Pippin stepped in front of Ioreth, crouching low. Boromir’s eyes locked onto his, and the Man’s brow lifted in threat of tears.
“Boromir? Remember me? It’s Pippin. Your friend, Pip. From the Shire. Remember?”
Chin wavering, eyes glistening, Boromir nodded.
“Will you let the Healers help you? They will not do you any harm, I promise. If I stay with you, will you let them redo the bandages?”
Boromir stared at Pippin. He seemed very near tears, and Pippin realized the Man thought him dead, and felt guilty for it. Ah… Pippin knelt forward, placed a tentative hand on Boromir’s uninjured arm.
“Come on,” he whispered.
Together with the Warden and the guards, Pippin helped Boromir to stand. They led him back to bed, and immediately set to work on redoing the bandages. As they worked, Boromir watched Pippin, who averted his eyes as they cleaned the stomach wound. The hobbit tried a smile, though in truth his heart had withered away the moment they had found Boromir in the corner.
Aragorn will know what to do. Gandalf will fix this. Boromir is not mad. Not truly. They will know what to do. He is just tired. Worn out. He just needs some rest.
“Little one?” Boromir asked as they pinned his left arm again. “This is Minas Tirith?”
Pippin felt a lump in his throat. “Aye.”
“Where is my father?”
Pippin caught the quick glance between Ioreth and the Warden, but Boromir did not. The Man was focusing on Pippin.
“He is…,” Pippin faltered. “He is away. He has gone to meet with Aragorn. They are holding a great council as we speak. Because they need to – they need to plan and discuss many great things. Your father is away.”
This seemed to soothe Boromir enough. He leaned his head against the pillow. The healers still bustled over him as he spoke.
“And my brother?”
“Faramir is here, very close by. Shall I call him?”
“Nay!” Boromir grabbed Pippin, startling him. “Nay! Hush! Do you not hear? Where is Third One? What noise!”
Pippin strained his ears. He heard the birds singing, the wind, the healers working, the people outside. He did not know who Third One was. He did not know what even to listen for. Boromir was growing anxious, his manner strange.
“Faramir, alas, the elves are not fore’er graceful,” he gasped, flinging his head back. “Ai, ai, do you not hear? There he is again! Pippin, this is a dream, can you not silence his cries? I can do nothing and the Tree disappears, always and forever falling, the ground is too close!”
“What?” Pippin asked. He looked up and saw Ioreth shaking her head silently. No! No! Pippin could not accept this. He could not accept that Boromir was mad. And so he inched closer, asked again, “What is it? Boromir, who is Third One? What tree?”
“Silence!” Boromir barked. “Have you no respect! Ai, ai, and my face, they will tear it out, they say they will rip it off and give me a new one, ai, do not let them! I do not want a new one! Pippin, tell them what they want, anything. When e’er did I listen, not enough, Imladris holds counsel fair and wise and wise and fair, but all dead now. Third One! No! No, please! Leave him be!”
Boromir screamed again, thrashed around, so that the guards had to hold his shoulders. Pippin was pushed out of the way. But the Man calmed himself and fell again limp, breathing hard.
With violently shaking hands, he pressed the new bandage in the stomach and grimaced. Pippin inhaled sharply.
“Little one, this is a dream?” Boromir asked, testing again his wound. “Can you not make it stop? The hurt… ah… It has ached since Amon Hen, little one. Little Pippin,” he smiled, his eyes glistening. “I did see your face, and Merry’s, in those last moments, many times. Did you see mine? Did you remember? Ai, Boromir the Fool,” he sputtered with sudden, miserable tears. “Will they remember me as such?”
The healers were finished. Ioreth and the Warden exchanged a quiet whisper near the door. Pippin sat on the bed next to Boromir and felt the tears start again. Boromir’s mind seemed to slosh back and forth between the present and the past, the Quest and Barad-dûr, the hobbits and this mysterious Third One. It was difficult to follow him, but Pippin attempted to soothe him nonetheless.
“Aye, of course we remembered you, Boromir,” Pippin said with a half-hearted smile. “But not Boromir the Fool. Nay, we remembered you as Boromir the Brave.”
Boromir laughed with glistening-wet cheeks, shook his head. He dropped his hand from his stomach, closed his eyes.
“Little Pippin, and they will think me mad, gone forever, aye, but they are all mad here. Mad-dead, mad-dead, rotting dead. I do not remember what to tell them, they ask and ask and ask, but I cannot say. I do not know. Mayhap they are satisfied, they leave me be in this dream – I cannot hear Third One anymore, is he well? – I am so weary…”
As the Man sank down into his pillow, visibly exhausted, Pippin felt his chin tremble. He dragged his sleeve across his eyes to hide the tears. He forced his voice to remain steady.
“Sleep, Boromir, you’re safe. I promise.”
With his final, whispering breath, Boromir murmured, “The little one promises…”
And so he was asleep. Pippin noticed then, in the silence, that his heart was still thumping madly and his brow was cold. He did not know whether to rejoice or weep. Well, he was weeping already. He did not know whether it was even desirable for such a Boromir to awaken. But perhaps the Man’s disorientation was temporary. Perhaps, in time, he would come back to himself, and be as he had been.
But Boromir did not improve in the days that came. His condition worsened, so that he ever rambled and screamed and wept. Soldiers who had known him, served under him, would visit him only to find a completely different person. Rumors spread. Boromir the Brave is lost. He has fallen into madness, just like his father.
Pippin found it difficult to reason with the Man’s wild cries, and so he sat with him less and less.
And yet, once Faramir heard of Boromir’s awakening, he replaced Pippin beside the bed and waited obsessively. When Man and hobbit saw each other outside the Houses of Healing, they immediately lowered their eyes. For the first question which sprang to both their minds was always, And how is he today? The answer was always, The same.
Sometimes Faramir would rest his hand against Boromir’s brow in hopes of finding a fever. He could be delirious, this could be an infection. But no, the brow was always cold. And while Boromir’s physical injuries slowly healed, his mind deteriorated further into its own chaotic depths. No one knew what to do.
Once, Éowyn offered to sit with Faramir. Faramir was loath to let her stay, but after much debating and arguing – she is too stubborn – Éowyn remained. She did not last long. One half-hour she sat, naively trying to reason with Boromir, attempting to soothe his howls with calm words. Be at peace, Lord Boromir. The War is finished. Try to rest. It did not work, the Man was beyond reason. He cowered and shivered and flung vulgarities at her. Despite Faramir’s warning, Éowyn made the mistake of placing a wary hand against Boromir’s shoulder, and the wounded Man responded with a sharp blow against her face. Faramir jumped forward, restrained Boromir and urged her to leave. She did, and never offered to sit with him again.
And so the cycle continued. Maddening conversations without reason, without end, without purpose. Hopeless consolations and miserable begging. Again and again, until Boromir was given up to madness completely, and his room was avoided by all.
“You speak of the elf? Is Third One what you called him? Brother, listen to me. Hear my voice.”
“Yea, the elf! The elf! Imladris holds counsel fair and wise, perilous quests, beware, but dead now, all dead. All black orcs and Uruk-hai twisting the gut, it hurts! Ai, it hurts! And what of Third One? Leave him be! Where is he? Leave him alone!”
“Nay, calm yourself, brother. The elf is well. He sleeps now in peace. Lie still, you will tear your –”
“Do you not hear his cries? It is a torment! I hear it all! Brother, brother, my blood is black. I feel its acid coursing through me, they mean to make orcs of us. Did not the Valar hear me? Have they forsaken this Dark Land, have they forgotten me? Lost, everyone is lost, and Imladris-dream is failed! Third One dies ah, forever, his final screams pry into me and open everything up and I hear it all! May I not die too? Why not? I did pray it, aye, pray me tell me the truth. Is there no silence? Brother! Brother! Brother, where are you?”
“I am here, Boromir, I am in front of you.”
“Can you not hear it? Ah, Faramir, I am sorry for it all – and there, he screams, again! There! Again! Silence him! Do something! Third One! NO! What are they doing to him? Faramir? I cannot see him, but I see First One – aye, I see him all the time, against the other wall, with the Easterlings, everywhere, always, the grass is red…”
“Nay, there is but silence. You are in Minas Tirith. The elf is well, he rests now. Come, Boromir, you are not listening to me. Try to remain still, ere the stitching comes undone…”
Sometimes the mad glint in Boromir’s eyes would fade, and he would shudder back to himself, or what seemed like himself. But those were difficult moments. Moments when whoever sat with him wished they had not. Moments when the suspicion of his madness was confirmed many times over. Moments when all those nearby shivered and hoped never to know what Boromir knew.
One clear afternoon, in the latter half of April, Faramir watched, grief-stricken, as his brother cried out from his darkness, eyes open and blind. But Boromir then fell still, as if awakening from a strange dream, and looked directly at Faramir.
“Brother?” Boromir asked. He moved his arms, the wasted muscles straining as he tried to push himself up. Faramir, fresh tears falling from his eyes, chin trembling, moved forward to help him sit.
After weeks of this, Faramir was near ready to give himself up to madness as well. His nerves were strained to their breaking point, and only recently did he learn, unwittingly, of his father’s passing. He was not sure how much more he could bear.
“Aye, Boromir,” Faramir said. He settled back in his chair and attempted a smile. “It is I.”
“What change is this? What sun? Where am I?”
His voice was so different. Dry, parched, wavering. But calm now, lucid. Soft.
“You are in Minas Tirith, as you have been for near three weeks past. The sun shines because it is three in the afternoon.”
“Aye, brother, you are home.”
Boromir studied his brother. “My mind spins, Faramir. Is this a dream?”
“Nay, it is the truth, and you are awake.”
Boromir dropped his gaze, lifted his hands, slowly, all bandaged, and rubbed his face. When he looked again at Faramir, his eyes clouded – his breathing grew fast. Sweat formed on his brow. Faramir brought his chair closer, took his hand.
“Nay, brother, do not do this. Stay with me – ”
“Ai, Faramir, alas, you fade! How so? How is it I see you now and feel still the fires at my back? He is very near – his Eye burns blood in my head. Alas, I will fail, I cannot resist any more of this!”
Faramir shook his head, the tears again falling from his eyes. “Nay, Boromir, be at peace! Remain here with me! Do not give in so easily! All is finished and there is no more torment! You are in Minas Tirith, I swear it! What you feel is but an echo of things past – lie still and rest, please – ”
Boromir’s eyes flickered back and forth, widened. “Foul liar! I hear their footsteps – they are coming, Faramir, they come close! Valar, please! Help me!”
And Faramir was forced to listen as his brother cried out again, screamed, tossed, wept and confessed everything. Boromir cried of Frodo, the Ring, the Fellowship – all the while begging for death, begging for release, confessing everything and anything he could tell. The Warden and the nurses arrived at the sounds of his screams. Yet they could only help Faramir hold him down, since there was no reasoning with the Man, no medicine which would heal this.
Faramir clenched his teeth, bared them, wept until his eyes gleamed red, gripped his brother’s bandaged shoulders. Everyone was shouting, all voices frantic, all desperate, all mixed together in a uniform chaos of noise. Ioreth, get the sleeping drugs! Brother, brother, wherefore, this is not real! Frodo! It is Frodo Baggins! Eru, I’m sorry! Lie still! Hold his arms! Peace!
In the blur of movement, Faramir caught sight of Pippin standing in the doorway. The hobbit was watching, aghast.
“Go! Away with you!” Faramir bellowed, sobbed. “You are not to see this!”
He turned back to the scene, held his brother, and with his cheeks soaked in tears, watched as the Warden forced Boromir’s head down, wrenched his mouth open, held by the teeth, and poured a drugged drink down his throat. Faramir watched and hated it as Boromir choked and gagged, managed drowned screams, sputtered the liquid everywhere. A few guards had arrived too – they held the injured Man’s head, shoulders, arm, legs. He still kicked, threw his head back, babbled incoherently, but Faramir saw the irises fade to black as the quick drugs spread. His cries, his strength, all diminished with the drink’s effects.
And with a long, soft exhalation, eyes closing, head rolling back unsupported, Boromir fell limp. The hands lowered him, all together, back onto the sweat-soaked sheets. Ioreth pulled the blanket gently over him, smoothed back the wet strands that stuck to his forehead, cooed something. His last movement before falling still was opening his mouth, just barely, as if to speak, seeming too tired, and closing it. Ioreth wiped away the sticky sedative around his lips and in his beard.
Faramir stepped back, drained. The guards, moving as quietly as their armor permitted, exited the room, some casting Faramir sympathetic looks. When the Warden and aides had finished, they looked back to Faramir, who motioned for them to leave. He did not look behind him, but rather took again his seat, crossed his arms, bit his lip, and waited. Waited for movement, for change. Waited for his brother, as he once knew him, to return.
Someone sniffed behind him. Faramir turned sharply, ready to banish the person from sight, but paused. It was Pippin. The hobbit had not left but rather had stayed in his spot under the doorway, watching. And Faramir knew why the hobbit stayed. It was unbearable to behold, but impossible to walk away from. Pippin’s eyes glistened with falling tears, he wiped his nose on his sleeve.
“Go, Pippin,” Faramir said hoarsely. “There is nothing for you here.”
Pippin did not move.
“That happened a few nights ago, when I was with him. He seemed normal, but…” Pippin trailed, voice cracking, unsteady. “I thought it was something I said.”
Faramir smiled humorlessly.
“Nay, Master Hobbit. We can say nothing, do nothing. It is always the same.”
Pippin took a tentative step into the room.
“Do you think Gandalf… do you think he’ll know what to do?”
“I hope so.”
Pippin walked forward, neared the bed. He took a seat at the end. His feet dangled off the edge. The afternoon sun was golden. It warmed the room.
“I wish this would end.”
Faramir exhaled. “As do I.”
But it did not end, not that day, and not for several days after. April was spent waiting, watching, soothing Boromir’s wild screams. He never awoke from his madness if not for brief, confused snatches. Guards were soon placed outside his room on constant duty, ready to hold his arms, force sedatives into him, or just give the Healers room to work. Boromir’s physical wounds were long to mend, particularly his stomach, where the flesh was mangled, the scars deep, forever ripping open. The Man’s constant thrashing did not help, and one elderly Warden suggested they bind his hands, constrain his movements. Yet when Faramir heard this proposition – even with the knowledge that it would help, that certain soldiers needed it, that it was no more sickening than binding a broken arm – he prohibited it. Never would he see his brother bound like a madman.
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