2. Part Two
He stepped inside, only to be enveloped in a crushing bear hug. He looked up at the strong shoulders and the dark locks not unlike his own. "Boromir!" he exclaimed. "I thought you were not coming until next week."
"Now, is that any way to greet your brother?" Boromir ruffled Faramir's hair before drawing them over to sit down on the couch opposite Imrahil's chair. Faramir turned first to Boromir, then to his uncle, a questioning look in his eyes.
"Father insisted," Boromir explained. "He ordered my captain to release me a few days early. 'I will not have Faramir running around Dol Amroth by himself!'" Faramir laughed at the imitation of Denethor's gruffness. "He did not trust you, little brother," Boromir continued, "and wanted me to come look after you. But it seems his fears were groundless. Uncle tells me you leave every morning for the woods to read a book and are home every night by dinner --"
"My book!" Faramir cried. His mind flew back to an image of his book lying on his table in the common room of The Silver Fox. "I left it --" He stopped short.
"Yes?" Imrahil asked. "What of it?"
Faramir blushed slightly. His thoughts winged back to the cool room and the nervous look on the madam's face. No, he could not tell his Uncle about what had transpired there. "Nowhere. It is not important."
Boromir raised an eyebrow at that. "O ho, maybe Father was not quite as wrong as I thought! I had hoped you were not really spending all day reviewing Elvish -- that the book was just your excuse. And I see I was correct. Come now, Faramir, what mischief have you done today?"
"Mischief?" Faramir asked, fixing his brother with a stare. "Why, I have done no such thing. No worse than you would, at any rate."
"That does not eliminate much."
"No, indeed!" Imrahil chuckled.
Boromir gave Faramir a conspiratorial smile, then looked at his uncle. "True. Perhaps I should set a better example, but then Faramir would have no excuse, and we cannot have that, can we?" Faramir tried to force a laugh, but it was not very convincing. He was grateful when his brother, perhaps noticing his uneasiness, appeared to have decided not to pursue the matter.
"We eat in an hour?" Boromir asked, and Imrahil nodded. "Then I must beg your leave. That is, unless you wish your sons to suffer the smells of the road all through dinner?"
"Of course not," Imrahil replied. "Out with you, then. You, too, Faramir." And the brothers left.
Once they were out in the hall, Boromir turned to Faramir. "Come now, what did you do? You can tell me."
"Nothing," Faramir replied. He felt the colour return to his face. "I was lost, and I --"
Faramir was interrupted by a high-pitched squeal coming down the hall. The brothers turned and saw a small girl toddling towards them with seemingly impossible speed. "Bo'mir!" she cried, and Boromir ran to her, catching her up in a hug.
"Hallo, Thíri," he said, setting her down on the floor and kneeling in front of her. "And how is the Lady of Dol Amroth?"
"Good," Lothíriel replied, curtseying awkwardly in front of her cousins and dropping what she had been holding.
"What do you have there?" Faramir asked, coming over.
Lothíriel bent over and picked up the bronze spoon she had dropped. "Pretty," she said, looking up at him nervously.
"Aye, it is," Boromir replied. "Where did you get it?"
Lothíriel thought about that, and then ran behind Faramir, peeking out around his legs.
"It is all right," Boromir replied. "It is very pretty, but don't you think Cook will miss it?" Lothíriel nodded, and Boromir picked her up in his arms. "Well, let us give it back to her, shall we?" The three stopped at the kitchen and returned the spoon before Boromir and Faramir left Lothíriel in her nursery. "Do they always let her run loose like that?" Boromir asked as they headed on to their quarters.
"No, but she is small and her legs are quick," Faramir replied. He was silent for a second. You can tell him, Faramir; he is your brother. At last he said nervously, "Boromir, we must talk."
He suffered his brother's scrutiny until Boromir nodded gravely and said, "But not here. This should be a talk between brothers."
Five minutes later Boromir and Faramir reached the suite of rooms they shared. Faramir sat down on Boromir's bed and watched his brother remove his tunic and begin washing. "We need to talk," he repeated.
"We do," Boromir agreed. "Do you wish to tell me how you lost your book?"
Faramir tugged uncomfortably at his collar. "I left it at an inn," he said at last. "The Silver Fox. The matron said you came there often?"
Boromir smiled and nodded. "I go there on occasion. It is a nice inn, and it serves its purpose. How did you find it?"
Faramir turned his head away and mumbled, "I got lost."
Boromir left his cloth beside the washbasin, came over to the bed, and sat beside his brother. Faramir felt his brother's eyes boring into him. "So did you enjoy your dinner?" Boromir asked.
Faramir shook his head. "I left before my meal was ready."
"Oh?" Boromir asked. "Why? The wine there is said to be the best in the city."
Faramir turned to face him and saw Boromir's eyes flash with suspicion. He held himself still while Boromir ran a finger along Faramir's cheek and inspected it. Faramir sighed quietly, letting his head drop, his long hair falling into his face. He thought he had wiped away all traces of Isilwen's kiss, but obviously he should have been more thorough.
"Faramir, do you know what happens in that house?" Boromir asked.
"Not when I went in," Faramir replied flatly, averting his eyes.
Faramir lifted his head, brushing the hair away from his face, his eyes ablaze. How dare Boromir impugn his honour so! "I would never -- never -- have entered such a house if I knew what went on in the upper rooms. You know that." He knew he was avoiding the question directly, and quite frankly he did not care: Boromir may have the gall to ask him that, but Faramir did not have to answer.
Faramir inhaled slowly, stalling for time to think, and saw his brother do likewise. This was a conversation they had had before, so often that Faramir could guess his brother's thoughts. Few men would admit to visiting a brothel, Boromir would say, but most had seen the inside of one, at least before they were married. Aye, but there was a good reason men would not confess to purchasing such a service. They were Númenóreans -- elf-friends -- not Easterlings, and for the Men of the West certain things required commitment: a shared bed was one of them. And if other men forgot that fact, how did that excuse Faramir from doing what he knew was right?
As Faramir drew in his breath he caught the scent of lilies, vines, and rose-petals; he knew that Boromir, sitting so close, must surely smell it also. Faramir's fear was confirmed when Boromir leaned towards him, pulled his younger brother's tunic to the side, and sniffed.
"You did not answer my question, Faramir," Boromir said, his voice terse. "Do you know what happens in that house?" He straightened Faramir's tunic, then returned to the washbasin. "Do not try to deny that you do; I smell her on you." He came back with a wet cloth and ruthlessly began to scrub away the remains of Isilwen's lip colouring.
"Nothing happened," Faramir said.
"Do not lie to me, Faramir," Boromir replied angrily. "I am no hypocrite. I will not think you less honourable if you have indulged in something I too have done. Why do you hold back so?"
"Nothing happened," Faramir repeated stubbornly. It was the truth, as much as he might wish otherwise. He opened his mouth to speak again, but then shut it, convinced that anything he could say would only lower him in his brother's opinion.
Faramir watched Boromir study his face for some time. "When you say that," Boromir said at last, "do you mean that nothing happened -- that you went in, decided you were not hungry, and left?" He paused, waiting for Faramir to reply, but when his brother offered no answer he continued, "Or perhaps that you did no more than I would have done?" Boromir placed his callused hands on Faramir's shoulders and turned him so that the brothers faced each other.
Faramir fidgeted under Boromir's rough touch. "Nothing happened," he said a third time. But he could not force himself to look his brother in the eyes, and he knew Boromir must guess something of the truth.
Boromir released Faramir's shoulders and leaned back against the headboard, his lips curling into the beginnings of a smile. "Something happened. Tell me, Faramir, or I will go to the matron herself."
Not that! Faramir thought, trying to keep his panic from showing.
Boromir smiled encouragingly. "Do not worry, I will not laugh at you."
Faramir knew that Boromir had never given him cause to distrust his promises before, and he would rather his brother hear the truth from him than some stranger. "I was lost," he admitted, "as I said, and so I went in to ask directions. The matron offered me a room; I accepted." The smile Boromir had been fighting broke out, followed quickly by a soft chuckle. "Boromir, you promised!" Faramir cried indignantly. "And what of it? In Minas Tirith I could accept a room without fear of such unwanted company."
"You are not in Minas Tirith," Boromir answered; "this is Dol Amroth. Uncle would say that men are not so forward here as they are in Minas Tirith, and that they would not use courtesans if everyone who saw them enter such a house knew exactly what they were doing. And he has a point." He laughed.
"But men in the White City," he went on, "do not fear that tattling goodwives will spy on their visits: there are none to be found on the north side of the Fourth Circle! And there is no doubt as to what they will encounter when they go to an inn in that quarter. They do not face unwanted advances because they strayed into the wrong house."
Faramir reddened. "Nothing happened," he insisted. Boromir raised a sceptical eyebrow and Faramir found he could not meet his brother's amused gaze. He looked up at the ceiling, out towards the balcony, at the painting of Mithrellas on the wall -- everywhere but at Boromir. At last he sighed and met his brother's eyes. "But I wished it had." Then he shook his head. A man of Gondor should hardly think such thoughts, let alone share them. "I did not ask for her company. Or at least I did not mean to. But she said I did…" His voice trailed off.
Boromir gave him a kindly smile and said, "A little wisdom from the guards, brother:
'Ask for a ground room if sleep you desire; so says the fisherman's lore.
But seek for the stairs and the rooms above, if you wish for something more.'"
A moment passed, then Boromir continued. "Did she have a name?"
Faramir sighed contentedly. "Isilwen."
"You have good taste," Boromir said, smiling at his brother. "Aye, I can see why you would wish to bed her."
"I never said --" Faramir began to protest.
"Yes, you did," Boromir reminded him. "And why not? She is beautiful."
"Because," Faramir replied in his superior tone, "I do not do that. I would sooner find release in my hand than in another man's toy."
"Toy?" Faramir flinched under the scorn and incredulity of his brother's tone. "I hope you find release, then, for there are worse 'toys,' as you put it, than tavern wenches." He paused. "Do you remember Eseleth?"
Faramir thought for a moment. "She was your chamber maid, was she not?" he said at last.
"Yes," Boromir replied, nodding his head seriously. "Yes. And do you know what became of her?"
Faramir considered that, trying to recall what had become of her. "I have not seen her in years," he said. "I think someone told me she went to live with her aunt in Anórien…"
"And do you know why she left?" Boromir asked. When Faramir could not answer he continued, "Eseleth left Minas Tirith because she was three months with child. With my child." Boromir's eyes clouded, and he said, almost to himself, "My son."
Faramir sat in silence and tried to ease the knot growing in his chest. He was an uncle… he had a nephew… No, that was just not possible. And yet, why would his brother lie? It had to be the truth. And that meant -- that meant Boromir had known, and not told him. For years now!
He looked sharply at his brother. "Why did you never speak of this to me?" he demanded.
This was clearly not the reaction his brother had expected. "You were a boy --" Boromir began, sounding slightly aggrieved.
"I am not one now, nor have I been one for many years. I would have understood." So you consider me man enough to bed a girl, Faramir thought bitterly, but not old enough to know the consequences of your doing so?
"Would you have understood, Faramir?" Boromir asked, a note of scepticism in his voice. "Do you understand even now?"
Oh, I understand perfectly well, Faramir thought. I have a brother who fathered a child when he was little more than a child himself. Any man with the brains of a mumak knows how children are begotten! And more than that, he sent the child and mother away, without speaking so much as a word about the whole affair to me. And -- He looked over at Boromir and saw his brother's need for approval. Would you really have done so much better, Faramir? You wished to do the same thing Boromir did, yet you were too afraid to do it. Boromir at least had the strength to match his actions to his desires. Which is worse?
"I do not know," Faramir admitted. "I like to think I would have understood, but -- Boromir, you have just told me I have a nephew somewhere in the wilds of Anórien. News like that takes time to get used to." He sighed, and then repeated stubbornly, "I still think you should have told me."
"Now, that would have been an interesting conversation!" Boromir laughed. "Tell me, how should I have opened the subject? 'Faramir, when I was your age, I slept with a maid, and now she cares for my son…'"
Come now, brother, I know you better than that. Do you really think I would have been so surprised? "I already knew you bedded tavern girls, and you are not the only man to sleep with women besides his wife," Faramir replied coldly.
"Or perhaps: 'Somewhere in Anórien lives a girl who will never marry, not for any fault of her own but because I could not resist her charms--'"
"All right!" Faramir cried, clenching his hands around the edge of the bed. He was puzzled that those words had so ignited his temper, usually kept under such tight control. But this talk of passion, and not being able to resist it… Boromir's words contained too much truth for Faramir's comfort.
Boromir laid his hand on his brother's shoulder soothingly, and Faramir relaxed his grip and smoothed the quilt. "Where is the boy?" he asked. He stood up and marched over to the washbasin and splashed some cold water on his face to calm himself.
"I do not know," Boromir said.
"What do you mean you do not know?" Faramir demanded, spinning around and walking back to the bed. "How could you not know? We are talking about your son!"
"Father would not tell me." Boromir's voice was calm, but his hands were clenched and his shoulders more tense than Faramir had ever seen them.
"Did you not search for them?" he asked.
Boromir shook his head. "What would that have achieved? I will be steward one day, and a steward needs a wife, and a proper heir. Eseleth can provide me with neither. If I found the boy I would only bring them both pain; I have harmed them enough."
Faramir sat down and leaned back on the bed, sighing. Over the last two years, he had become used to being able to outpoint his older brother in matters of logic. Now he found himself rightly corrected. If Boromir had sought the child out, what good would that have accomplished? Nothing at all, but to bring more trouble to those he would love. But Faramir and Boromir had shared so much: in all the joys and adversities of their lives, they had each been the strength the other drew on. Except for this. Surely Boromir should have known he could trust Faramir with this burden?
"All right," Faramir said at last. "I still say you should have told me."
"Perhaps," Boromir replied. "Yes. I should have told you. Do you hate me, brother?"
Faramir looked over at Boromir. "No. This is quite a shock, yes, but you are still my brother." He hesitated for a second. "Why are you telling me all of this now?"
"Because I will not have you repeating my mistakes," Boromir said, his patience wearing thin. "Faramir, there is a boy somewhere in Anórien who will never see how much his father might love him. Why? Because Father did not have this conversation with me. He never told me that a lord of Gondor should not chase after innocent servants, and that he should work out his frustrations through more appropriate means. I will not have you ruining some maid's prospects or depriving another child of a father, like I did. Your pride is not worth their lives."
"I would not have let Father send her away," Faramir replied.
"No, you would not, would you?" Boromir mused. "You would marry her. And that is perhaps even worse. You would risk locking you both into a loveless marriage, throw away your lives, everything you have worked for, for one night of passion?"
Faramir sat up and looked over at Boromir, a wounded expression on his face. "Do you really think I have so little control, Boromir, that I would do that to some poor girl? To myself?"
"I do not know, Faramir," Boromir answered. "I thought that I had control. All I know is that you are seventeen, as was I." Faramir shot him a hurt look. "Oh, do not look at me that way, brother! We all are faced with situations we did not choose or did not foresee would be the consequences of our actions. Often we would prefer to avoid them, but life demands we deal with them. I made the best decision I could." He paused and brought the conversation back to its original point. "As did Isilwen. Do not condemn us when you do not know our full story."
Isilwen? Faramir thought. What evil drove her to such a life? Or did she make one poor choice that set her on this path? He had never stopped to consider why any woman would agree to work in such a place. "Why?" he asked at last.
"Why what?" Boromir asked. "Why did I never seek out the child? I've explained --"
"No," Faramir replied, waving off the question. "That I understand -- your desire for Eseleth I understand all too well, and I can see why finding the boy would only make life more difficult for everyone." He laid his hand on Boromir's shoulder. "That was many years ago. The idea will take some getting used to, but I will accept it. No, I was wondering why any woman would choose to trade her favours for coin? Did Isilwen really have any other choice?"
Boromir nodded. "The Silver Fox does not accept unwilling girls. If Isilwen had not chosen this life freely, they would have helped her find work elsewhere. But if you would hear her whole story, you should ask her yourself."
"You mean I should go back?" Faramir asked, blushing slightly. "I -- I couldn't. They would laugh at me."
"Nay," Boromir said, "'tis more than their lives are worth to ridicule the Prince's nephew." Faramir avoided Boromir's piercing gaze, and for a long time the two brothers sat in silence. At last Boromir stood up, walked to his saddlebags, and pulled out a fresh tunic. "This is something you must decide for yourself, Faramir," he said.
Somewhere in the castle a bell rang.
"We should get ready for dinner," Faramir said, and he went to his own room to change.
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.