1. First Watch
Boromir started, looking up from the long table where he had been poring over old maps. His chair scraped on the stone floor as he stood. He stayed behind the heavy oak of his makeshift desk. Protection, perhaps. He placed his hands, knuckles down, on its surface for support, and bent over the litter of books and parchments through which he had been searching. He sighed once and then looked up at his brother. Faramir stood by the door, beyond the small pools of light cast by the two tall candles that sat on either end of the table. Straightening, Boromir put up one hand to rub his burning eyes. He still could not see his brother’s face clearly, nor read his expression, inscrutable at the best of times.
“Faramir, please,” he said, his voice tired, almost pleading, “it is I who must go on this journey. I do not doubt your strength or courage, but….”
His brother raised a hand to stop the speech that he had heard before, many times. Boromir was able to make out the ghost of a smile lifting the corners of his mouth. “I know when I must admit defeat. You taught me often enough when we were children.”
His heart constricted. In spite of the smile, he knew that he had wounded Faramir deeply in their quarrels over which of them would go on the dangerous journey to seek counsel among the strangers of the north. Their situation was growing graver by the day as the power of the Black Land grew and enemies beat against their borders. A dream had come to Faramir, a riddle that had seemed to offer them some hope of defeating the Nameless Enemy, if they could but find the key to its meaning. The dream had come to his brother many times and once to him. He could still hear the voice in his dream, crying, “Seek for the sword that was broken, in Imladris it dwells, there shall be counsel taken….” He was the elder and, he thought, the hardier of the two. He had a better chance of finding the Elven fastness, called Rivendell in the Common Tongue, and returning to the White City with some plan for defeating the evil that threatened Gondor. Before it was too late. At least those were the reasons he gave his brother and his father the Steward, both reluctant to let him go. There were other reasons of which he had not spoken, among them his deep love for his brother and for Gondor. Since childhood, he had felt that both were his responsibility. But he knew Faramir did see this as a defeat, as the usurpation of a quest that should have been his.
“Please understand, it is I who must do this…”
Faramir’s hand fell to his side. “I did not come to discuss your decision yet again. I think I understand your reasons, whether or not I agree with them.” Boromir saw his hesitation.
He came from behind the table and, in four long strides, laid his hand lightly on his younger brother’s shoulder, squeezing it slightly through the soft, white material of his tunic. “What then?”
“It is Adrah. You must speak to her before you go.”
He held very still for a moment, then removed his hand carefully from Faramir’s shoulder. Turning slightly away from him, toward the window to the right of the door, he looked out into the black night, black with no stars shining. It had been long since they had seen stars here in Minas Tirith. He matched the night as he looked out on it, dressed simply in a black tunic and breeches with no ornaments. Feeling oddly vulnerable, divested of the mail that seemed to him now like a second skin, he wrapped his arms around himself. He was cold, despite the warmth of the summer night.
“It is late. The child is sleeping. You know I leave at first light.”
“All the more reason to speak to her now. She is your daughter.”
Still looking out at the starless gloom, Boromir straightened his shoulders slightly. “I have never troubled her with my comings and goings. I have been away half her small number of years. She is a soldier’s daughter.” A small muscle twitched along the line of his jaw, at odds with the light tone he tried to put into the words.
Faramir’s hand was on his arm, turning him away from the window. Clear, penetrating gray eyes probed into sea-green ones. The green eyes were changeable as water and as Boromir’s volatile moods. Tonight they were the clouded gray-green of the seas off Dol Amroth after a winter storm. The green eyes dropped first.
“She is well taken care of. She will be well taken care of. Faramir, you will see to that.”
“Of course I will… I would… if….” Faramir’s speech stumbled, his eyes shifting away to the right and downwards. He stopped himself, compressed his lips, and swore softly. His eyes flew back up. “Fiends take you, Boromir, you could ever distract me and put me off-balance.” He laughed, reluctantly.
Boromir’s answering laugh, almost carefree, seemed to dispel some of the shadows that surrounded them. From childhood, he had been one of the few who could disturb his brother’s carefully cultivated calm and divert his thoughts from their scrupulously laid paths. He had always made a game of baiting Faramir. “When we are old men together…” he thought, then stopped the thought.
But this time, his brother was not to be diverted. Stepping back, he broke the contact between them. “It is different this time, and well you know it.”
“Nay, I do not. As soldiers, in times such as these, we face death almost daily. Each time I ride from here, I know I may not return. Adrah is but six summers old, too young to be burdened with that possibility. I say again, she is well provided for. Should anything happen to me, I know you will see to her care.”
His brother said nothing, refusing to lower his eyes or look away. After a long moment, Boromir shifted uncomfortably. Faramir saw too much.
Boromir turned again to the window, to look at nothing in particular. He shrugged slightly. “She is a strange child. Like as not, she will not notice I am gone.”
“Nor care? Is that your thinking?”
He did not reply, but continued looking into the darkness.
“You wrong her and yourself. She is not like her mother.”
Another silence. Then, hesitantly, “Perhaps you are right. When first I saw her, I hoped she was more like to you. She was the very image of you when you were a babe. And as she grows, she is very like you were as a child. Dark and beautiful and, oh so very serious.”
Faramir snorted, that was the only word for it. Boromir turned around to look at his brother, his heart lifting. Getting a snort out of Faramir was an accomplishment. Although he was near forty on this dark night, goading his grave and dignified sibling never palled. Then his thoughts turned serious again. “I pray indeed that she is like you and not like Mariset. Time will tell. I know she is reserved, like you, but not yet whether she is as cold and uncaring as her mother.”
“Let us not debate it now,” he cut across Faramir’s indignant protest. “I know you are the small lady’s champion, and I am glad of it. I have been much away, and I am grateful that you have come to care for Adrah. She is fortunate in her defender and teacher. But does she care for you or anyone? I wonder.”
“Again, you wrong her. I know you fear the mother’s taint, but the blood of Numenor runs true in her. You say she is like me. So she is. So is she the very image of our father. She has not your ready warmth, it is true. In that she is also like her grandfather.”
“So I fear, and in more than that.”
“You know that is not how I meant it,” Faramir replied, his voice growing heated. “Our father is a good man, from a noble line…”
“A shame, then, that Denethor refuses to recognize my by-blow, as he called her, or, better, ‘the bitch’s spawn’.” He saw his brother wince at the words, or perhaps at the note of despair in his tired voice. Taking a breath, he continued more strongly, “All the more reason that I depend upon your care of her.”
A long silence fell between them. Boromir walked closer to the window and leaned against the smooth, white stones of the window-ledge, turned gray by the surrounding dark. He opened the casement and took a deep breath of the warm, still air. Then, quietly, almost as if the words were dragged from him, “Do you know that I have never seen her cry since the day I brought her back from … from that whore’s house? That she has never called me ‘father’? A poor father I have been, indeed, to my shame. I should never, never have left her there.”
“’Twas not your fault. I know that Denethor refused to have her here. And you had provided Mariset with a house, with servants, with money. Did she not promise you to… to…”
Boromir looked back over his shoulder at his brother. “To quite whoring? Indeed, brother, so she did. Why I believed her, I know not.” He turned back to look out into the night, a night in which, of late, no night bird sang its sweet song nor even cricket chirped. His apartments were on the ground floor of the King’s House, looking out onto a small patch of trees and flowering vines between the House and the White Tower. He had moved his apartments to the ground floor years ago, saying that he needed to be able to reach the guardroom in the Tower quickly. Truth to tell, it was as much because he loved to smell the grass and trees, to listen to the small movements of birds and the hedgepig that lived under the roots of the nearest oak, to hear the crickets and the rain. Since the darkness from Mordor had increased, it seemed that even that life was being squeezed from the city he loved. The night beyond the window was deathly still.
“I loved her once,” came the words, seemingly from somewhere far away.
Faramir hesitated. “She was beautiful, cultured, from a noble house….”
“That she was. Of course, they disowned her. She could never live within the bounds a respectable family set for her. I thought she was simply passionate, willful. She was so very beautiful. I thought she…. I thought I could save her.”
He heard an inarticulate sound of pity or protest from behind him. Without looking back, he continued with a bitter laugh, “What man who loved her did not? I thought I could make her love me, make her leave that life. She loved nothing and no-one, besides sensual pleasure and wealth. And wine. Ah, yes, and wine.”
“When she found out she was with child, she was furious. She wanted to rid herself of… it, as she so charmingly put it. I begged her to marry me, did you know that Faramir? No, of course you did not.”
What must his upright and serious brother think of him? Had Faramir been hurt or relieved that he had until now withheld this painful part of his life, when growing up they shared so much, both joy and pain? He had been too ashamed, ashamed of his love for so unworthy an object, unwilling to share the worst of himself with the brother he loved so much. The brother who seemed not to have uncontrolled passions that led him down such twisted paths.
“She laughed. She asked me how I knew the child was mine.” His hands clenched into fists on the smooth stone of the window’s ledge.
“Boromir…” What did he hear in Faramir’s voice? Tears? He despised himself, that he had gone from one who inspired confidence to one who inspired pity. He straightened his shoulders, and turned around to face his brother.
“I told her that it mattered not to me whose child it was. I would marry her and raise it as my own. She told me then that she was well aware Denethor would disown me if I married her. She was right, of course. Mariset was an intelligent woman, and she collected ample gossip from her servants and her… lovers. I was of no use to her as a common soldier of Gondor. She made that quite clear to me. Quite … clear.” Feeling his hands clench into fists again, Boromir paused. He straightened them out with some small effort, and wrapped his arms around himself again. Around the pain that still lurked at the core of him even after all this time. Seeing the stricken look in Faramir’s eyes, the pause lengthened.
He lifted his hands, ran his fingers through the light brown hair that fell to his shoulders and tried for a neutral tone. “In fact, she made it entirely plain that she had never had the smallest affection for me, and that the life of a courtesan suited her very well. The child and I were nothing to her. More fool I.” By the end it had become bitter self-mockery.
With that, he turned abruptly back to the window, staring blindly into the dark, remembering. “I fought for the child, persuaded her to carry it to term….” “Persuaded!” He stopped himself with a harsh laugh. “I paid her well. Bought her the house, hired servants I thought I could trust, the finest doctor, a midwife… When I came back from a campaign, the child was but a month old.”
He pushed back from the window, then turned and leaned back on the ledge, framed by the darkness behind him. His eyed locked with Faramir’s. “I saw at once that she was mine. Mine. My daughter.”
He looked up and away past his brother, recalled the fierce love that had been born in him with his first sight of that tiny, strangely silent child. His voice softened as he thought of it. “My child, Faramir, although I knew it because she looked just like you and our father. So beautiful she was, with so much black hair even then. And so still, like you at that age. A daughter.” He felt again his wonder at the perfection of her; the joy that he, who had never hoped for children before he died in the skirmishes that increased daily on their borders, had a daughter.
“Then I saw her eyes.” His smile faded. He crossed the room and slumped back into the chair behind the table. Faramir followed him, dragged out the chair from the opposite side of the table and sat down. He leaned forward toward his brother, confusion on his face.
“Her eyes? She has beautiful eyes.”
“Oh, yes, beautiful eyes. Mariset’s eyes.” When he had first looked down at his sleeping child, he had felt such peace for a moment, even in that whore’s house. Then Adrah opened her eyes. He was both fascinated and chilled. They were striking, neither the clear dark gray of Denethor’s family nor the sea-green eyes that Boromir shared with his mother. Pale silvery-gray, like moonlight on still water, like the eyes of a northern wolf, Mariset’s eyes looked up at him from his daughter’s face. Cold and beautiful like the blade of the sword he most loved. Like that sword, they were two-edged. Salvation or pain, life or death. He shivered, remembering.
But he had loved her already, with a love that he had never felt for another living thing, not even for Faramir, whom he had loved since childhood. Not even for the gay and smiling Finduilas, the mother who was so much like him, that he had lost when he was but a few years older than Adrah was now.
“Boromir, the child is not the mother.”
“I know not what she is, as yet, only that I love her. I tried to arrange things for the best. I knew Denethor despised her.” Even after all these years, he still bore the scars from his father’s scorn, his bitter disappointment in his much-loved elder son. He could still hear that cold voice. Bastard, by-blow, whore, dishonour, ingratitude… words all the more wounding for the controlled tone in which he delivered them.
Stung, despairing of ever persuading his father to accept the child, he was reluctant to expose her to such hatred. He had at first tried to make other arrangements for her care, even though he had wanted her with him. But in one thing he defied Denethor. He named the child Adrah after her great-grandfather, Adrahil, Finduilas’ adored father. It was Boromir’s way of conferring a legitimacy of love on her, if not of birth. The imputed connection to his dead wife’s family had infuriated the Steward and earned Boromir weeks of cold silence from him.
“Under other circumstances, our father might not have been so harsh,” said his brother. “He fears for our people and for the future of our house. We have provided him no heir to the Steward’s rod. With this darkness hanging over us, it is likely that neither of us will marry or have sons for Gondor.”
Leaning forward, Boromir put his hand over his brother’s. “Do not say that. After….” He paused. “I will never marry. I will not give the Steward’s house an heir. But you can and will.” He hesitated. “If you must have it, that is part of the reason I insisted on undertaking this journey myself. And part of the reason our father agreed.”
Faramir jerked his hand away, and opened his mouth to speak, an expression of outrage on his face. Boromir reached toward him, grabbed his arm, and said, “No, not now. I cannot bear it. It is decided.”
His brother subsided, but with his lips thin and an unaccustomed mulish look in his eyes. Would he ever understand or forgive him? How could Faramir truly understand the weight of responsibility he felt as eldest son, older brother, heir to the Stewardship and all that implied. And now his duty to his child. He tried to act for the best, to protect his land and the people he loved most in this world. It pained him to think that sometimes, in trying to live up to those responsibilities, he must seem anything but loving.
“I thought of fostering her on some respectable family. But I knew I would be away on the borders for months at a time. The threat from Mordor grew day by day. I did not know how often I could be in Minas Tirith. Or if … or whether…”
He was uncomfortably aware of Faramir’s eyes fixed on him. He shifted in his chair. “I thought perhaps she deserved to grow up knowing one of her parents.” He looked down at the clutter on the table without seeing it.
For a while Mariset seemed fond of Adrah in her own way. At least she seemed to see herself reflected in the child. He had kept his own servants in the house so that they could look out for his daughter’s welfare and report to him. For a while, all seemed well.
Boromir picked up a cunningly carved letter-opener, a rare ivory piece from Near Harad, and started turning it over and over in his elegant, long-fingered hands. The silence lengthened. Then he clutched his hands around the little ivory knife and went on.
“I had been away for several months, to Rohan and then back up to North Ithilien, patrolling, just before Adrah turned three. It was her birthday on the day I returned. I went straight to Mariset’s house. She had not … expected me.”
She had sent the servants away. He had gone through the house, looking for Adrah. He found her in the whore’s bedroom. Mariset was drunk. She was in bed with … she was…. There was a small sound within the silence, as the ivory knife snapped in two. Faramir started slightly.
Boromir sat unmoving, his hands still tight around the broken ivory. Adrah had been in the corner of that room, crying softly. Her dark head was buried in the skirts of her crumpled, rose-colored dress. The dress was dirty. So was her hair. He had knelt down beside her and put his hand under her chin, lifting her face. Her beautiful, silvery eyes were red and swollen. He saw a bruise on her neck. There was a small cut under her right eye. It had likely been made by one of Mariset’s rings. One of the rings he had given her.
Boromir still looked down at his hands and at a tiny trickle of blood that was now seeping into one of the maps beneath them. He said quietly, “I took Adrah out of that foul place and brought her here.”
He had simply scooped her up and fled, knowing he would kill the whore and her lover if he hesitated. When he had strode into the King’s House that day, Denethor had taken one look at the child and at his face and turned away, saying nothing. His father had said nothing of her or to her since.
“Boromir,” said his brother, “you love the child. You know as well as I that you may never return to the White City. You must tell her both these things.”
He sat unmoving, his eyes down. Adrah had never cried again after that day. When Mariset had died of drink the next year, he had told the child of her mother's death. She had looked at him gravely, but said nothing. She was always…polite to him. But she did not seem to care when he moved in and out of her life, as he was forced to do. He did not know if she cared for anything or anyone. She seemed at once fragile and self-contained.
“After what she has been through, I .… Better that I should just leave. It will make little difference to her if I return or not. She hardly knows me.”
Faramir reached over and gently disentangled his brother’s hands. He removed the pieces of the letter-opener and laid them aside. His fingertips were stained with blood. He looked at them for a long moment, then said evenly, “By the One, brother, I never took you for a coward.” Boromir looked up at that.
“I will say this once. Heed my words. The child is not her mother. You saved her. You love her. She is old beyond her years and sees much. She sees who you are, what you are, and she loves you for it.” Then he shook his head slightly and sat back in his chair, a very small smile returned to his face. “Unaccountable as that regard may seem to you.”
“I am afraid to disturb whatever peace she seems to have made with … with….” Bormir hesitated, then fell silent again.
“Yes, it is about fear, isn’t it?” Faramir said gently. “Yours and hers. You say you are afraid that she feels little, like Mariset. Are you afraid rather that she feels too much? Or is it your own feelings that you fear?”
Boromir’s right thumb probed the cut on his other hand. His lips tightened.
Faramir sighed and continued, somewhat doggedly. “We live in a dark time, beset by fears both small and great. There is no shame in that. Adrah has been afraid to lose you. She has lived with that fear since the day she came here. Just because she has tried to protect herself does not mean that she is cold or uncaring. She cares perhaps too much to let you see it. And you have held yourself apart from her as well.”
“You are right. I have been a coward.” Boromir’s eyes were bleak, expecting to see the disappointment he felt in himself reflected in his brother’s face.
Instead, he saw understanding. Faramir smiled. “Well, the Valar know that women are more fearsome than orc or troll, and certainly less predictable. There is some excuse for you.”
He tried to answer that smile, but did not succeed. Faramir’s own smile faded. “She knows that you are leaving….”
“She knows. And she is afraid of the darkness into which you go.” Faramir pushed back his chair and stood up. “I will see you off in the morning. Good night.” He turned and walked quickly out of the room.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.