18. The Faithful
With a start, Mablung realized he recognized those fingers, the soft white skin of her arms, the fall of neatly plaited brown hair; it was his own wife, Indil.
It had been two years since he had laid eyes upon her, but they had been busy ones - hiding in the wilds of Ithilien, fighting the curse of the Dark Lord and he had not often thought of how she had fared. He had left her mistress of his house and fortune and had hoped it would be enough to keep her contented. Apparently it had not been. She had been a healer of some skill when they met and it did not surprise him that her generous and practical nature would not allow her to sit idly behind the protection of his family's walls.
She looked up then and her roving eyes caught sight of his battle-scarred face. Her mouth opened slightly as she stared at him, her hand gripping the swathing she had been using with reflexive clutches. There was need in her eyes, a longing and desire that burned into his. Mablung looked away, his cheeks burning. Despite years of abandonment and the cruel way he had parted from her, she had not forsaken him. Her look said so as clearly as if she had spoken of it aloud. Despite his unforgivable actions, his wife still wanted him to return to her.
Resentment and the rage he had mercifully almost forgotten returned, fueled as much by his frustration as his own shame. How could she bear to look at him?! How could she still want him after all that they had gone through? He kept his eyes downcast lest she see the bitterness that filled them. It would have been so much easier if she had strayed - if she had found comfort in another - but Mablung knew her well, and even when his own heart betrayed him, he knew hers never would. Marriage was for a lifetime - her people believed that even more strongly than did his own - but that covenant did not allow for the strains that time and warfare could put on a man's body.
She had been so kind about his failings. *Sometimes it happens,* she would say, kissing his forehead and trying not to let her disappointment show, but what he could not have admitted then and was loathe to admit now, even to himself, was that 'sometimes' had become all the times. In the end, even the sight of her naked form in the dim light of dawn could not stir his cursed body to respond. Whether it was malady, injury or simply a case of falling out of love with her, Mablung did not know, he only knew that each time she had approached him with tender, forgiving hands and warmth and willingness in her eyes, his rage at his impotence had grown. Even now it consumed him and smothered any of the love he might have once felt for her.
Mablung looked up to see that her longing gaze was still fixed on him, but there was no longer any hint of hopeful desire in it. They had been married long, raised two fine and promising sons, and had learned to read each other's thoughts in the subtlest nuance of a glance. Sorrow filled her eyes now, sorrow and defeat. She knew that his heart had not changed despite the time and distance. A lesser woman would have wept openly at his rejection, but Indil was no lesser woman. Mablung had never known anyone as strong as she, save perhaps his captain. She would not weep, nor let her grief be known to any save him. She had always kept such things inside herself. She had borne her children in silence and blood, to the astonishment of the midwives who attended her and it was with the same silence she had buried them after Captain Boromir's company had returned from battle with their quiescent forms laid among the dead. She had always been so and that made Mablung's shame burn even more heavily into his heart.
His eyes dropped to his captain who was chatting amicably with the other healer attending him and Mablung's rage mellowed. How could he tell his faithful wife that his love was now given to another? Could she ever understand the bonds that could be forged by the heat of battle? Could she comprehend that what drew him to his captain was something far more noble than the desires of the flesh? He loved Faramir beyond life and it was that love that had filled and sustained him through his estrangement. His love for Faramir was one that allowed him to feel proud of himself again, to feel useful and needed, to feel as if he were once again a whole being. He felt a surge of love fill his heart and wash away the remaining anger. He was his captain's man and no other's - for Faramir loved him also - and would never ask for anything that Mablung could no longer give.
Mablung saw Indil's hands begin to move again, her fingers touching Faramir's injury with a surety and tenderness that would have fooled anyone less familiar with her moods. Mablung sighed and frowned, feeling the guilt creep back into his heart. He had found his place and a love to fill his soul, but what of the one he had pledged that soul to? He looked again at her neat and handsome features, her fair skin, still flawless after so many years, her petite and still comely form. She deserved a love as great as the one he had found in his captain, but where in all of Middle Earth would she ever find it?
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.