Steward's Sons, The
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In His Brother's Shadow: 3. Conversations
“Faramir,” came Boromir’s voice softly. “Are you ready for our practice?”
Faramir stretched, clasping his hands above his head and extending his arms back to ease his shoulders. He looked over at Mithrandir, who was reading intently.
“Excuse me, sir,” he said. “I must go now. Shall I see you at dinner this evening?”
Mithrandir’s head came up with a jerk. “What? Oh, good afternoon, Boromir. I see you have come to take away my assistant for the rest of the day. Yes, Faramir, I shall dine with your family again this evening. I will see you both then. Enjoy your swordplay,” and he turned back to his leather-bound volume.
Pushing back his chair, Faramir rose and followed Boromir out of the room, up through the grey stone passages and outside to the armories and the practice yard.
“How was your afternoon in the archives?” Boromir asked his brother as they walked. “It seems dull to me, although probably no more dull than sitting in council and listening to some of that talk. Always someone objects to a perfectly sensible proposal, and has to be brought to see reason. And Father had me stay once the discussion was concluded – I will tell you later, perhaps, of what he said, but just now I wish not to think of it. I’ll be glad to shake some of the cobwebs out of my head with a little exercise. So, how was working with lord Mithrandir?”
“Well, not as interesting today as I had hoped,” confessed Faramir. “He had me practicing the alphabet for the High-Elven language; the letters are mostly the same but many of them stand for different sounds, so it is a bit confusing. But we did talk a little as well. Did you know that there are still Dúnedain living in Eriador? They are called Rangers, and protect the folk of that land just as you protect Gondor. And there is even some settled country there. Master Mithrandir did not tell me the name of the land, I do not think it is a proper kingdom, but more an old province ceded by the king of Arthedain to a people called the Periannath.”
“I had heard something of the Dúnedain to the north,” said Boromir indifferently. “A scattered people now, I think. Their kingdoms are long gone, and their kings as well. But if they oppose our enemies, that is all to the good. The Periannath? That folk I do not know. I imagine they are of no great significance.”
“No, I shouldn’t think so, I just thought it was interesting to learn of them,” replied Faramir. “So, Father said that you were getting some new mail? Are you going to try that out today?”
“I had better try it out here before I wear it in the field,” smiled Boromir. “I have to be sure that it fits so that I can move properly, after all. I tell you what, why don’t you warm up and do your usual practice while I deal with that and talk for a little with Hallas, and then later I will show you a new move I’ve been working on.”
“All right,” said Faramir cheerfully. His ordinary drill would be much more fun with a bout with Boromir to anticipate at the end of it. For once he almost looked forward to putting on the padded and quilted practice garments.
Two hours later, he was not certain if he would last through the session. Boromir was in some ways a harder taskmaster than Hallas. He had shown Faramir the promised new move, a twist of the wrist that if performed correctly could disarm an unwary opponent, and now they were practicing it. The trouble was that Boromir was expecting the move, which made it much more difficult for Faramir to carry it out.
“Keep your feet light,” advised Boromir. “Try to feel as if the sword is an extension of your arm, and let them move together naturally.”
“I can’t,” panted Faramir. “I just can’t feel like that at all. I have to think about what to do.”
Boromir frowned a little. “That’s why you’re having trouble, then. I think the best thing to do would be for you to practice all your drills to the point of absolute boredom. Start by counting the movements, as when you learn a new technique. But go through them all so often that you don’t have to do that at all, your body simply knows what to do next. You need to make it so that each action is as automatic as breathing. For me, this was easy to do, just as book-learning is easier for you. But if you will be on the field as a captain someday, you will have to acquire this skill. Enough for today, however. Perhaps the next time I am able to be in Minas Tirith we will have another chance to practice.”
“Oh, are you leaving so soon?” said Faramir in disappointment. “I had thought you were to be here several more days.”
“I doubt I will leave tomorrow, no. But we may not be able to drill together again before I leave. Much of my time will be spent arranging for supplies to be taken to Osgiliath, and things of that sort. I may do my sword practice in the morning, while you are bent over your books.”
They walked back into the armory to put away their gear. There was still some time before the usual dinner hour, and Faramir commented, “After that session, I suppose I really should bathe before dining with Father and Master Mithrandir and whomever else will be present tonight.”
“A good idea,” said Boromir. “Do you usually use the big bathing room, or the little one upstairs in the family quarters?”
“Most often the little one, but then one has to get a servant to bring all the hot water up, and we don’t have that much time to spare. The baths down here have that big tank which is always heated, so it will be quicker, and at this hour there will probably be no one else using it,” answered Faramir.
The bathing room, open to use by all who dwelt within the Citadel, lay next to the kitchens underneath the Steward’s House. It had originally been a single large chamber, but now a wooden wall divided it into a men’s and a women’s side. Each area had a dozen or so tubs in a semicircle around the perimeter, with a pair of pipes running along the wall to supply the cold and heated water to the bather’s taste. Towels were stacked on a table in the middle, and a large basket stood ready to hold the damp towels after use.
The brothers chose a pair of tubs next to each other, and started the taps running as they pulled off their sweaty garments.
“Ah,” sighed Boromir, as he lowered himself into the steaming water. “This is a luxury I miss in the field.”
“It is good to be able to soak off the sweat,” agreed Faramir, reaching for a bar of soap. “What else do you miss, when you’re on campaign?”
“Not much, really,” said Boromir. “You know I don’t care for fine clothes or anything of that sort. And I certainly do not miss having to attend council meetings; in fact to avoid those I would give up any sort of luxury and stay out fighting the Orcs all the time! Well, perhaps not quite. By the time that Father dies I expect I will feel otherwise, and he looks not like a man who will die young in any case.”
“Do you miss having women around?” asked Faramir shyly.
Boromir twisted around to gaze at his brother. “I wondered when this topic would appear, after what you said yesterday evening. The answer to that question is, sometimes. But I think you have other questions you want to ask me, do you not?”
Faramir squirmed a little. Now that it came to it, he was not sure just what he wanted to ask his brother. “I know some things,” he said, “You know I was out on the home farms last summer for the harvest.”
“Oh yes, I had to do that as well at your age. Father is very keen to make sure that we know something about how ordinary folk live and work, and the farm is a good way to do it. He’ll probably have you spend some time with the smiths here in the city at some point – a bit of knowledge of smithcraft is useful in the army, so that at least you can see to the shoeing of your own horse! – and perhaps work at another trade or two also.”
“Yes, well, I talked with the lads there, and they told me about the girls they knew and that kind of thing. And the farm’s reeve was breeding some herding dogs, and had me supervise their matings. But it all seemed so, so, I don’t know, so mechanical. Is it really like that? To be with a girl?” asked Faramir in some embarrassment.
“I don’t know if I’m the best person for you to talk to, really,” said Boromir. “I’ll tell you what I know and think, but sometime you should talk with our uncle Imrahil, if you can. He’s the one who told me about all these things, and he’s really very easy to talk with. Mechanical – no, I wouldn’t call it that. Have you had dreams about girls, where you wake up excited?”
“A few times,” said Faramir, looking sideways at the edge of the tub.
“Well, then, when you’re really with a girl it feels like that, only more so. Uncle Imrahil says that it is far better to be with your wife, whom you love and who loves you, but I wouldn’t know about that. I’m not that interested in being married, anyway, certainly not soon,” he scowled.
“Well, I think I want to marry. And I would hope to love the woman I wed,” said Faramir. “Although any such event is a long way off. But, Boromir,” he hesitated, “how old were you when...” his voice trailed off.
“When I was first with a woman? Seventeen, I think. It wasn’t exactly what I’d expected. I was with several of the other younger fellows in my company – this was before I had a command, of course – and we had just had a very successful skirmish, a whole band of forty Orcs killed and no men lost. So we wanted to celebrate, and one of the older men suggested that we go to a particular tavern, which was supposed to have very good ale and women available for those who wanted them. After I had had a few tankards I suppose it just seemed like a good idea. But I don’t remember it all that clearly, now. I wouldn’t advise you to follow in my footsteps in this matter, Faramir! There’s no reason why you should feel you are somehow slow in these things,” declared Boromir.
“No, I’m not ready for that yet. But I feel like I look so much younger than my age; I’m getting taller, to be sure, but that is all.”
“As I’ve said before, you shouldn’t worry about that. It’s the Elf-blood, perhaps. I wasn’t the first of my friends to start a beard, either. Is that what’s bothering you?” said Boromir.
“Oh, I don’t know. I suppose I am just impatient to be older altogether. Whatever I want to do, I seem to be too young for, and no one takes me seriously even if I have something worthwhile to say. Perhaps if I looked older they would,” Faramir muttered.
“Now, listen to me. Don’t be self-pitying, Faramir. You know that’s not true. Father may not always pay the attention to you he might, but you know that I listen to you. And Mithrandir seems to as well,” Boromir said thoughtfully. Then he added, “By the White Tree, look at the time. We had better hurry if we don’t want to be late to supper again.”
They climbed from the tubs and went dripping for the towels. Boromir snapped his at his brother playfully.
“Feeling better now?” he asked. “You know that I will always be there for you, here in person when my other duties allow, and you are in my thoughts as well. That is what brothers are for, is it not?”
“Yes, Boromir,” said Faramir soberly. “There is no one like your own brother.”
Pulling their dirty clothes back on for the moment, the brothers walked companionably up to their rooms.
“Do you know if we are having just a family dinner again tonight, or if we are eating in the Great Hall?” Faramir asked.
“Father didn’t say,” Boromir frowned. “I suppose we should try the chamber up here, and if he is not there then we can go down to the Great Hall. I will knock at your door in twenty minutes, all right?”
As Faramir changed into his dark red tunic and grey trousers, he thought over the conversations he had had with Mithrandir that day. Choosing evil, he mused. I still don’t really understand that. I think I can see how someone might fall into evil unknowingly, but not why a person would turn to evil deeds deliberately. Perhaps this evening or tomorrow I can ask Boromir what he thinks. He has worked and lived with many men, yes, and fought our enemies too. I’m sure he has had to deal with prisoners. Perhaps he understands all this more than I, and can explain it.
He took up the wide-toothed comb on the washstand and pulled it carefully through his damp and tangled hair. He was just slipping on his soft indoor shoes when Boromir’s knock sounded at the door and his brother entered.
Faramir looked up. Boromir, too, had dressed carefully tonight, and looked every inch the son of the Steward of Gondor in a dark green tunic with silver leaves embroidered around the neck and wrists. His dark hair was caught back in a carved leather clasp, and he had even somehow managed to find time to have his beard trimmed.
“You look well,” said Faramir, and added apprehensively, “Is there something special happening of which I have not heard?”
Boromir shook his head. “No, but Father remarked this afternoon that I need not look shabby simply because I had only just returned from the field. You know how he can be,” and he gave his brother a tight smile that quickly faded from his face.
Faramir sighed. He certainly did know, but it was unusual for Denethor to make that kind of remark to his elder son. Ordinarily his more cutting words were reserved for the awkwardness of the younger.
“Actually his words were, ‘If you persist in dressing like a common soldier, no noble will respect you and none of their daughters will look at you.’ So I thought it best to dress the part of the fine nobleman tonight, and avoid any further quarrel. That is all,” said Boromir, turning and leading the way out of Faramir’s room.
The family chamber, when they reached it, proved to hold only Mithrandir, standing at the window and gazing westward into the darkling roses and golds of the clouds on the horizon. He turned his head as the brothers entered the room.
“Good evening,” he greeted them. “Denethor left a message that he was called urgently to deal with some business, but that he should return within an hour, or two at most. He asked that we begin the meal without him, if we desired.”
Boromir raised his eyebrows at Faramir, who shrugged in reply.
“How surprising of Father,” remarked Boromir. “In general he requires us to wait, if he is delayed by pressing affairs of state.”
“I imagine it is in deference to me, do you not suppose? Perhaps he feels that the elderly should be accommodated to a greater extent than youth?” asked the wizard, a gleam in his eye and a wry twist to his mouth. “Still, since you say he prefers you to wait, we shall do so. He most courteously ordered a flagon of a very good wine to be brought. Will you join me in a cup? We can talk until your father’s arrival.”
Boromir nodded, and filled a goblet of wine for himself. He paused, and then poured one for Faramir as well, mixing it half-and-half with water. Faramir accepted the cup and sipped tentatively. He rarely drank wine and did not mind at all that his brother had watered his share.
“Of what would you speak, Lord Mithrandir?” said Boromir, seating himself in one of the heavy oaken chairs and stretching his legs in front of him. Mithrandir moved to sit in one of the pair of leathern chairs on either side of the hearth. Faramir noted that he did not take the worn chair that was clearly Denethor’s, but the other. For his part, Faramir chose a seat from which he could watch both his brother and his new teacher as they conversed.
“Why, anything you please,” answered the wizard. “If you like, you could tell me something about your city and your land. For although I have traveled in Gondor many times, I do not know the country as would one for whom it is home.”
Faramir wondered if Mithrandir knew he could have chosen no better subject for the conversation. Boromir’s love for his land shone on his face like the last light in the West as he leaned forward to speak.
“Minas Tirith has no equal,” he began. “Surely not in strength, and I daresay not in beauty either, at least not among the cities of Men. She has never been taken by force, and shall not be, as long as I and mine draw breath. The White City is fair and proud and strong, and she serves as guardian to the rest of Gondor. The plains of Lebennin would bear no golden grain, the hills of Pinnath Gelin no fruit, were Minas Tirith not their strong bulwark.”
“Do you then see the city as predominant over the countryside?” inquired Mithrandir.
Boromir thought about the question for several moments before answering. “I see them as partners, as equals. The city is a warrior, as some of the women among the Rohirrim are reputed to be, and she defends her weaker sister from the Enemy. But without the country, Minas Tirith also would starve and fail. They need and support each other, as all true siblings must.” He sighed.
“I do not know for how long she can endure, though,” he said sadly. “Each year we lose ground to the Enemy. His forces multiply, and the green dells of Ithilien are trampled bit by bit by Orcs’ feet and filled with the stench of their foul burnings. Meanwhile our oldest kindreds wither, their sons falling untimely in Gondor’s defense. We shall never be conquered unresisting, but I begin to fear that in the end this land will not last. May it not be in my time!”
“No, nor in any of our times,” agreed Mithrandir. “But I did not intend that you should speak of such dark things. Perhaps you would rather talk of something else?”
Boromir shook his head. “No, I am happy to tell you somewhat of Gondor. I will simply try to keep my descriptions to what is, and not what might never come to pass!”
And for the next hour he spoke at length of the different lands within the realm: of the broad fields of Lebennin between Anduin and the Hills of Tarnost; of the gulls crying on rocky Tolfalas near the Ethir Anduin, in the Bay of Belfalas; of the rushing waters of the River Lefnui; of the mines near the Starkhorn in the White Mountains. Faramir listened as closely as Mithrandir, for he had not yet had the opportunity to visit much of Gondor far from Minas Tirith, although he had several times been to Dol Amroth where his uncle and cousins dwelt.
I hope that Father decides to have me travel through Gondor before I am placed into one of the fighting companies, he thought. Clearly there is far more to our land than I could ever imagine or understand clearly from Master Golasgil’s tutelage alone!
Finally Boromir sketched his impressions of the Morthond Vale, in the north of which rose the Hill of Erech, where stood that stone where the lords of the mountains had sworn oaths to Isildur as king, at the very beginning of the age.
“I have seen Erech only from a distance, mind you,” Boromir added. “The local folk avoid it in great fear, for it is haunted by the spirits of the Dead, the Men of Dunharrow. No sooner had they sworn allegiance to the king than they broke their word, and returned to the Dark Lord’s fold. When the Enemy was defeated they were condemned to remain in and near the Ered Nimrais, whence they came, until the heir of Isildur should call them to fulfill their oaths at last. And since that may never come to pass, now that the line of the Kings is broken, it would seem that the hill will be inhabited by their spirits for all time.”
As he finished these words, Faramir saw Mithrandir sit motionless for a moment, as if recalling something long forgotten.
“Indeed,” breathed the wizard finally. “You are no doubt correct.”
Now, what can that tale mean to one such as Master Mithrandir? Faramir wondered. Surely it is not new to him, though I had not heard it before. I knew of the oath-breaking, but not that the Dead haunted the Hill of Erech.
By this time the sun was long set, and the servants had discreetly lighted the tapers in all the sconces on the walls, and placed glowing lamps on the tables.
“I think we can wait no longer for the Steward,” said Mithrandir abruptly. “I will claim the privilege of age that he offered me, and dine now.”
He rose and asked Boromir, “Is there a bell I should ring, or will there be someone in the passage waiting upon our needs?”
“Try the hall first,” was the reply. “Since we have delayed the meal, I would suppose that it will be ready to serve as soon as we ask, and that someone will be on hand to bring it.”
Mithrandir strode towards the door, but it opened before he could reach it, and Denethor himself walked in. He appeared surprised.
“The table is still bare? I told you, did I not, Mithrandir, to dine without waiting for me, since I knew not when I might return?”
“You did, and I was about to bespeak our supper; we had just decided to delay no longer. Although naturally I preferred to dine with my host than without him, adept though his sons are at conversing in his place,” responded the wizard.
Denethor raised his eyebrows, but did not reply. He merely turned in the doorway and spoke to the servant waiting beyond, bidding him to bring the meal at once.
Like the night before, the conversation dwelt mostly upon the war and how best to apportion troops and supplies to Gondor’s greatest advantage. Denethor looked fatigued, the skin of his face slack and almost grey, even in the lamplight. But he spoke forcefully enough, arguing not uncivilly with Boromir’s ideas, and even acknowledging Mithrandir’s contributions. Faramir held his tongue, remembering his father’s previous dismissal of his suggestions.
When dinner was over, and even Faramir was merely picking at the raisins more for something to occupy him than from hunger, Denethor pushed back his chair and spoke.
“It has been a long day, and I am weary. I must bid you all a good night. Mithrandir, if you wish to remain and converse further with my sons, or to study your books, please do so. Boromir, Faramir, rest well. And Boromir, before you begin your duties tomorrow, be sure to see me in my study in the Tower.” He bowed slightly to Mithrandir, and left the room.
Mithrandir looked at his companions. “I believe I will return to my rooms as well, and not prevent you from spending a little more time together privately before Boromir must return to his company. Boromir, it was a pleasure to talk with you this evening. Faramir, I will see you in the archives tomorrow morning, if we do not break fast together first,” and he too departed.
“Now, how did he know that we would want to talk?” Boromir questioned his brother.
“Why, that would simply be common sense. We are brothers, we see each other rarely, what could be more natural? I doubt it has anything to do with him being a wizard,” said Faramir.
Boromir halted in his restless movement around the room and looked at Faramir. “You jest, my brother.”
“No, really,” protested the younger boy. “He told me so himself, and I saw him cast light from his staff.”
“Too bad he cannot cast some spell to defeat our enemies,” sighed Boromir. “A wizard would be a handy ally to have in these wars. Unless that is in fact his purpose here?”
“No,” said Faramir regretfully. “He says that all his power is to persuade men to the side of good – he cannot force them to go against their natures, for that in itself would be evil.”
Boromir shook his head. “What matters the reason, if he cannot carry out the action. But it is not our part to judge him, I suppose. Now. You did want to talk further, did you not, Faramir? Do you want to stay here, or go off to one of our rooms?”
“To your room, I think. I have but one comfortable chair in mine, while you have two, unless one has been removed since I was last there. And I expect that we should leave this chamber so that it may be tidied before morning,” Faramir responded.
“Very well. Let me just ask to have something brought for us to drink, if our talk should go on all night,” and Boromir grinned at Faramir, who wrinkled his nose in return.
“As long as you don’t have them bring spiced wine, since you wouldn’t let me have that anyway!” he said.
“Certainly not. Cider will suit me admirably.”
They walked back down the passage together, and entered Boromir’s room.
Faramir curled up in one of the two battered leather-covered chairs that sat before Boromir’s hearth, his shoes slipped off and resting on the floor to his left, his feet tucked under him. He balanced his mug of cider on the arm of the chair and spoke to his brother.
“I meant to tell you before, Boromir, but I forgot. Serindë asked me especially to thank you for sponsoring her brother Hunthor into your company.”
Boromir turned from his clothes press, where he was changing his fine tunic for one warmer and more comfortable.
“Oh, did she? I will have to find time to speak with her. Hunthor is shaping into an excellent scout. On our last long foray near the Ephel Dúath, he alerted us to at least four bands of Orcs, which we were then able to intercept and defeat without a single death among our own men.”
“She will be most pleased to know that, I am certain,” said Faramir. “I do not think that Hunthor can write to tell her, so she has probably not heard of his successes.”
“No,” agreed Boromir. “Few of my men can write, although if they wished one of the clerks in the main camp in Osgiliath would write their letters for a small fee, and arrange for them to be sent to their families. But not many think of it, and even those that do often decide that they would rather tell their stories to their loved ones in person, when they are on leave.”
“I can understand that. It is hard to describe blood and sweat with mere ink!” Faramir grinned.
“Well, as you are here in person yourself, you can tell me what it is like to be on campaign. It is not something that I can learn very clearly from all those histories and annals that Master Golasgil has me read,” he said deprecatingly. “For those generally report on the course of great battles and the politics behind them, but not the skirmishes or how the soldiers live from day to day in the field.”
Boromir moved to seat himself in the other chair, pulling it around to face his brother.
“It’s not really all that interesting or exciting, most of the time.” He pulled a wry face. “A lot of marching, digging latrine trenches, caring for pack animals, that sort of thing. Battling Orcs, yes, and the Men who have allied themselves with the Enemy, but that does not happen every day, thankfully. Of course, when you are an officer you do not do much of the physical labor, but you have to decide how best to transport and allot your supplies, determine what routes to take on patrol, and supervise your men generally. There are all kinds of details to attend to and they always take more time than you expect.”
He shrugged his shoulders. “I feel lucky to get six hours of sleep a night. At times a skirmish comes as a welcome relief; then I know I am accomplishing something definite!”
“You began in the ranks, did you not?” asked Faramir.
“I did... but I do not know if you will. It did not always work very well. They all knew that I was the son of the Lord Steward, of course; that could be no secret, and many of the other men in my company either resented me or tried to curry favor, especially in the beginning. Either reaction disrupted discipline, even though I tried to ignore both groups and simply obey my captain’s commands. So it may be that our father will decide to start you as a junior officer, to avoid such problems. But then, it is not a bad idea to learn how an ordinary soldier experiences things. If you are given the choice I would suggest you begin among the rank and file; it will be difficult, and your officers may not be too happy either, but it will be worth it in the long run,” advised Boromir.
“Yes,” said Faramir thoughtfully. “I think I would rather see how it is to be an ordinary soldier first, before I have to make the decisions that affect them. It certainly worked out well for you, men are always anxious to join your company whenever there is an opening; not that that happens often! And no doubt your experience is part of the reason. When I am in the markets I sometimes hear folk talking of Gondor’s companies and captains, and your name is always mentioned as one of the greatest.”
Boromir flushed at the compliment. “Oh, there are other officers equally well thought of, Faramir, and I have perhaps an unfair advantage in being the Lord Steward’s son. A man who serves under me now may expect or hope to receive preference in years to come,” he said, but Faramir could tell that his brother was pleased that his successes were known.
“Still, were you not a good captain, and known for the care you take of your men, they would not try to be in your company. What reward can a corpse receive?” persisted Faramir.
At that Boromir chuckled. “True enough! So, has Father mentioned when he expects you to take up arms? Not for several years yet, I should think. I did not join until my eighteenth year, and at that I was full young for it.”
“No, he has said nothing, but I do not expect it for at least three or four years. He has suggested that I should learn something of other trades first. Though in late years Gondor has had little commerce with the lands to the south, we still have dealings with those to the north and west, and it is fitting that either you or I should know well what our people produce for trade. And since you are occupied with other things, it will undoubtedly be my responsibility,” said Faramir. “Indeed, I rather look forward to it. Perhaps then I will have some reason to travel more through the land and learn to know and love it as you do.”
“Most likely,” assented Boromir. “And you might be sent as I was to represent Father to the lesser lords, who come seldom to Minas Tirith. He cannot spare the time most years, but they ought not to be ignored, for without them where would we be? Three years ago I journeyed all around Gondor on such a mission, and it was then that I saw all the lands of which I spoke to Mithrandir. I would not willingly have given up that chance.”
They sat companionably in silence for a time then, each thinking of their country. Boromir reflected on his travels through the land and planned strategies for its protection. Faramir, meanwhile, dwelt more on the lives of the people who lived there, wondering how many of them thought of Gondor as a whole and how many were content to lead their own lives, affected but little by the events on the borders to the east and south.
After a little Boromir stood up and stretched, clasping his hands before him and turning from side to side.
“Would you like another mug of cider?” he inquired, and Faramir handed over an empty cup to be refilled.
“We have spoken of what I have been doing,” Boromir said, pouring, “but what has occupied you these last months? I have heard a little from Hallas and from Father, but I would rather know your account.”
“From Father? Why, what did he say?” asked Faramir, taking the mug back. “He rarely speaks even to me of what I do.”
“Oh, just that you were progressing well in your studies, or so Master Golasgil had informed him. He seemed pleased enough by that, although I suspect he would prefer it if Hallas should prove able to turn you into a great warrior,” replied Boromir. “But come, you have not answered me.”
Faramir recovered himself from the surprise that Denethor had been paying attention to what he did, and speaking of it to others. “Much as you might expect. Practicing at arms, certainly; studying; wandering the markets on occasion.”
He laughed. “There was a funny incident there only a week or two ago. A wine merchant had opened a cask, pried the whole lid off, and was dipping out samples for potential customers. Well, it was a cool day and he must have been tasting his own wares to help keep warm. As the level in the barrel got lower and lower, he had to lean further and further over to dip up the wine. Around midafternoon there was a great thump and a splash and a cry: he had overbalanced and fallen in head first! The man he was serving hauled him out before he could come near to drowning, luckily, but he was a rare sight, standing there dripping red and looking as annoyed as a cat in a rainstorm.”
“That must have been something to see, indeed,” smiled Boromir.
“Mm, what else? I have been reading some of Mother’s old books, especially the Elvish poetry. The language of it alone is like music, and the stories told seem almost real to me as I read them. Right now I am in the middle of The Lay of Leithian, which tells the tale of Beren and Lúthien, their love and the great deeds they did so that her father Thingol would allow them to wed. I know you probably think it silly that I like to read such things,” said Faramir, a touch of defensiveness in his voice on the last sentence.
“Not at all,” Boromir replied gravely. “The tale of Beren and Lúthien is one I have myself loved since I was a boy, and Mother used to tell me stories at night of all the great heroes. I don’t think I realized then that Thû in the story was the same Enemy we strive against now; I was always more interested in the details of the fighting than in the fact that the story was true! But Beren was not the hero I admired most. I preferred Túrin above all the others, though at that time I did not know the ending to his story. Mother always stopped her telling at the point where he dwelt among the Men of Brethil, and had wed the woman he found on the hill, what was her name, Nienor. Only years later did I learn the whole of the tragedy; as a boy I was merely in awe of Túrin’s prowess at arms.”
“Well, though I trust your end will prove better than his, still Túrin is no bad hero for a warrior to admire; he certainly was the most skilled fighter of his day, excepting only perhaps Beleg. And Beleg was an Elf, anyway, and had had many more years to perfect his abilities; so that is no fair comparison,” said Faramir. “But I am glad you do not think it childish of me to read Elvish poetry.”
“Such an occupation might not be entirely to my taste, brother, but there is no reason why I should mock you for it,” said Boromir.
“Father does... well, he doesn’t exactly mock, but he makes it clear that he thinks it a waste of time,” Faramir said unhappily.
“You know Father, intensely practical. Since Mother died I do not think he has devoted a waking moment to anything other than the rule of Gondor, except by necessity,” Boromir mused. “I cannot imagine such devotion. I have never met a girl I wished to wed; one seems much the same as another to me, so it may be that Father will simply tell me which girl would bring the best political alliance.”
“It doesn’t matter to you whom you marry?” asked Faramir curiously. “I should think it would be hard to be married to someone you disliked, or even someone you were indifferent to.”
“For me I think it would be easier to be married to a woman I had no strong feelings for. I will have to think of the good of the whole of Gondor, and caring too much for a single person could complicate things. I saw how Father was after Mother died. It was as if he became a different person, almost. And if I am out on campaign, well, missing a wife greatly could distract me when I most needed to pay attention; and that would be no good for either of us,” said Boromir.
“But it seems I will have little choice in the matter, from what Father said today,” he added.
“What did he say? You mentioned this afternoon that you did not yet wish to think of it – but you know I will gladly listen if talking will help you,” said Faramir.
“He brought up the subject of marriage, actually. He will not pressure me, he says, but he wants me to begin thinking about it, and he even reeled off a whole list of suitable girls.”
Boromir rose and began to pace around the room.
“I’m not ready for this yet!” he finally exploded. “I may be his heir but I have not yet even seen twenty winters. He did not marry until he was forty-six, himself; why need I do so this young?”
“Perhaps he feels his age creeping up on him?” ventured Faramir. “Simply because he wed so late, he may worry that there must be an heir to follow you? I mean, tonight he looked quite grey with exhaustion. So maybe that is his reason.”
“Humph,” said Boromir, pausing with his hands in his pockets and his shoulders tensed forwards. “A poor reason, I should say. He ought at least to wait until I am five-and-twenty! It is practically unheard-of for any of the lords of Gondor to wed before that age.”
“Well, you just told me yourself that one girl was the same to you as another,” said Faramir equably, “and that you have no particular desire to wed. So this could be Father’s way of getting you used to the idea. He did say that he had no immediate plans to marry you off, after all. Tell him you’ll think about it for awhile. You only have to see him every few months or so, anyhow; perhaps he will not think of it again for some time.”
“You’re probably right,” Boromir said, beginning to pace again. “I’ve simply become accustomed to making my own decisions, and being in command of others, rather than immediately subject to someone else’s wishes. But what must be, will be.”
“Wait, I know. Did not the sister of the king of Rohan bear a daughter these two or three years past? Tell Father you will wait for her to grow up. I imagine he would not scorn an alliance with Rohan, and if she is so young, then you would have many years before a marriage could occur. Since the king’s son is over twenty, and he has no sister and is not like to now, this girl is the closest of his female kin. She would be a good political match, if that is all you care about,” Faramir suggested.
“Ha. That’s an idea. Father might not agree but it is worth a try,” Boromir said. “He wants to see me in the morning, so I could mention it then.”
He yawned. “But the hour grows late, Faramir, and we both should seek our beds, I think.”
“You are right,” said Faramir a little regretfully. “Rest you well, then, Boromir. I will see you tomorrow.”
“And you rest well, too, my brother.”
Faramir walked down the passage to his own room, then peeled his clothes off and climbed into bed, first setting a candle on the table by his pillow. He reached for his copy of The Lay of Leithian and began to read. The words sang in his head as if Lúthien herself were chanting them, and presently his eyelids drooped under their spell. He leaned over to blow out the flame, and then relaxed into sleep.
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