1. Ties of Love
Pippin pointed to the three red cords bound around the baldric Boromir wore across his body. Plain and ordinary cords they were, neatly tied but worn and stained, and they looped the belt just above the great horn of Gondor. Even as Boromir looked down, his hand went to them. Without thinking, he gently rubbed the three of them together and twisted them until they appeared a braid. It was a gesture that spoke of long familiarity and Pippin nodded, eyes bright.
“You do that all the time but they don’t seem to belong to you. I mean - to what else you wear.”
‘They were a gift,” said Boromir slowly.
“Oh-oh! From a girl?”
“No, from my brother.”
“Faramir,” said Pippin with certainty. With typical Hobbit curiosity he had long since ferreted out a family tree from Boromir and now he wiggled closer, hopeful of more.
Boromir let go of the cords and as they twisted apart, he carefully stroked them flat. Looking up he caught the Hobbit’s eager eyes and half-smiled. This Halfling reminded him of a young Faramir, always wanting to know ‘why?’ and ‘how?’.
“Yes, Faramir.” He hesitated. “These are the second he gave me.”
Boromir pulled his travelling bag over to him and reached into its depths. He pulled out a small, soft, leather bag and tipped it up on his hand. Out tumbled three red cords, worn to ragged strings.
“These he gave to me the first day I rode to war. Long did I wear them, through flood, battle and fire… until the very cords themselves began to unravel. They are for luck.”
He had almost finished dressing when Faramir had come slipping into his room. His sword, newly sharpened, had been strapped on by hands that shook a little at the realisation that he might next draw it to kill. He had carefully slipped on the gleaming leather baldric from which was suspended the great horn of Gondor. It hung by his side, a solid reminder of the weight of tradition and responsibility he must carry. Only his new cloak, a deep blue in the fashion of his company, waited its putting on when Faramir appeared. He himself looked oddly grown up in a new tunic and cloak and Boromir had smiled at his gravity even as he felt the pain of knowing that he must go away and leave this dearly beloved brother to grow up by himself. Perchance there would be little of the child left when he next saw him. He had greeted him, teased him about his fine new clothes, even given him a rough and brotherly hug but Faramir had remained almost wordless – until Boromir finally swung on his cloak and picked up his travel bag. Then Faramir had stopped him as he walked towards the door.
“I have something for you,” he said, through lips that suddenly trembled. “Ceredian said that families do this before their boys ride away.”
Solemnly he held out his hand to show three red cords held in it. Stepping close he looped the first one around the baldric and tied it with typically neat knots.
‘One to tie you to life so you will never leave it,” he almost whispered, then looped the second one above it. “One to tie you to this land so you will always return.”
As he tied it, Boromir looked down at the bent black head with a half-rueful smile. Father was not going to be impressed by a superstition learnt from his cook. Indeed, Boromir thought about suggesting he just put the cords in his pocket - until Faramir looked up at him as he whispered the last incantation.
“One to tie you to those you love so they will never lose you.”
There was faith in those grey eyes, faith and comfort found. No more than his father did Boromir believe in such a superstition but if the child found comfort in it then Boromir would wear them proudly and bear his father’s wrath. He held his brother’s arms in a warrior’s embrace and kissed his forehead.
“Thank you, Faramir – you will not lose me.”
“Oh,” said Pippin softly, looking at the worn cords. “That’s nice. Did he mind when you stopped wearing them?”
“No,” Boromir answered, smiling. “He was grown up by then – too old to believe in such foolish superstitions.”
‘But he gave you those,” Pippin said, reaching over to touch the brave display of red that Boromir wore.
“Yes,” said Boromir slowly.
Faramir had ridden with him to Forannest and they had dismounted there, near the Great North Gate, to take their leave. Both had been quiet, almost fey, that morning. They were soldiers and had ridden to death a thousand times; what is there to say when this may be the last time you will see the one you love? Standing there in the warmth of the summer sunshine, they spoke briefly of provisions and maps, of possible routes and battle strategies.
“Wait!” Faramir said, as Boromir turned to mount his horse. “I….” He reached into a tunic pocket and pulled out three red cords. He flicked the briefest of glances towards his brother with eyes as dark and unreadable as storm clouds then stepped closer and began to tie the cords on once again.
“One to tie you to life so you will never leave it.”
It was a man’s voice now, deeper and more certain, but the faintest tremor still shook it. Boromir’s heart ached as he looked at the black head, bent to its task, that now stood on level with his own. So much the man and yet still his small brother.
“One to tie you to this land so you will always return.”
Faramir fumbled a little with the knot then took his time to ensure that the cord was flat and lay smoothly beside its brother. The sun was warm on Boromir’s back and bathed the land in a golden light and Boromir let his eyes soak in the dearly loved hills and valleys of his land. On the horizon, the sun struck the whiteness of Minas Tirith and he narrowed his eyes against the glare to trace its tall towers one more time.
With careful slowness Faramir was tying on the last cord and Boromir whispered the final words along with him.
“One to tie you to those you love so they will never lose you.”
Task completed, Faramir stepped back and looked almost ashamedly at his brother. Boromir gripped his shoulder and grey eyes met grey.
“Never, Faramir - never.”
“And you will always keep these too, won’t you?” asked Pippin, in a question which didn’t require an answer.
Boromir nodded, nonetheless, as he looked down at the little figure that now leant against him.
“Yes. Faramir and I need nothing to tie us together, but I will keep them.” Boromir ran the cords through his fingers and added softly, “Perhaps one day they’ll be no more needed.”
Without thought, Faramir waded into the river, pulled by the palely lit boat. It swung around and came towards him and he paused, lapped by the Anduin’s cold waters. Closer the boat came until even the stars faded in the unearthly light and in that dark midnight he watched his brother float by in death. His face was peaceful but wounds marked his body and the swords of many enemies lay beneath his feet. Faramir shivered in the cold of the water but knew it not. His eyes searched his brother. Boromir’s broken sword lay upon his knee, and his shield was cloven too. Even the horn of Gondor, the horn that had woken his father and brother nights before, was gone, cut from the baldric, perhaps, by a wild sword blow. Above its place, two red cords remained only, and they stained with the darker red of Boromir’s life….
One to tie you to those you love so they will never lose you.
One to tie you to this land so you will always return…
* This is an expanded version of a short piece I wrote for the HA on-line Friday the 13th Challenge.
* Huge thanks to all those kind people who have helped me with feedback – I would quote Jeff Fenech and say ‘I love youse all’ but given I’m the only Australian around the reference would totally miss everyone ;-) More feedback of all sorts is always very welcome.
* This is a totally made-up superstition - a picture of two red cords (not much thicker than thread) just arrived in my head. Originally, it was going to be two red cords plus something else but while I was attempting to extend the picture to discover what else Faramir was holding I realised just red cords would do. It had to be three then 'cause, as Tay knows, three is a magical number. ;-)
* Special thanks are due to Lyllyn who as well as providing her usual great feedback also came up with a more formal version of the incantation. I’ve currently decided to go with the shorter more informal version in the story but I like to believe that Lyllyn’s version is the ‘real’ one.
so you will not leave it before your time,
One to tie you to your land
so your way home you'll always find,
One to tie you to those you love
with a cord so strong and true
One to tie you to those you love
so that they ne'er will lose you
* It’s slightly AU as I had to alter what Tolkien said Faramir saw so as to pop in my red threads.
* This was supposed to be about Legolas - but, as usual, Boromir and Faramir invaded. I'm going to get thrown out of the Legolas Fangirls' Association at this rate - or hunted down and killed by the Anti-Soppy-Faramir-and Boromir-Story-Front ;-) Don't know what Pippin is doing in there - he just invited himself in (as he would) and made himself at home. ;-)
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.