4. Chapter 4
Faramir was in attendance when the boy Beruel died. He sat with him for several hours as his condition deteriorated. He had invested so much hope in the boy’s recovery that when he finally slipped away Faramir seemed cast adrift in his grief. He rejected my attempts to offer him comfort and support as if they were another intolerable burden. He bolted away from me, calling for Tamir as he went.
I went to his private chambers later in the day, ignoring propriety, determined to try to find a way to help him. Tamir was again standing guard at the door, his manner and face betraying both worry and shock. I asked to be admitted, but he said that the Lord was indisposed and not receiving any visitors. I stood my ground and probed more deeply and asked if he was unwell or needed assistance. Tamir was obviously torn between his duty to obey his orders and his desire to share the burden of his concern. In the end I took the decision from him. I pushed past him and opened the door; my senses were immediately assaulted by the stench of sickness. I heard Tamir behind me gasp in shock. Lord Faramir was sprawled on the floor beside the hearth, an empty bottle still clutched in his hand. Fortunately he had collapsed onto his side; otherwise he might have chocked on his own vomit. He was unrousable. His tunic sleeve was heavily stained with blood and I feared he was injured, but we could find no wound. Tamir looked at me uncomfortably. I guessed that he knew the story behind the bloodstain but he kept the knowledge to himself. Between us we managed to remove the soiled clothing, get Faramir into bed and clear up the mess. We even managed to get him to swallow a cup of water, but through all our ministrations he remained unaware and unresponsive.
I sat with him for a long time, drinking in his beloved features, so ravaged and changed; in the last few weeks he had aged beyond belief. When he cried out in his sleep, I held him close and whispered my love, hoping that somehow it would register deep into his subconscious; it was all I could offer him.
The day appointed for the return of the King was fast approaching. The city was awash with people, refugees returning from exile and foreign dignitaries all clambering to be part of the celebrations and to pay homage to the King. I saw nothing of Faramir; after the death of the boy he had stopped visiting the House of Healing, at least in the daytime. One of the patients told me that he saw the Steward silently walking the corridors in the dark hours of the night.
The wounded inmates of the Houses gradually regained their strength and health and were discharged from our care. Those who remained would likely never be fit enough to undertake normal duties, but even they were caught up in the general feeling of excitement.
I was certain now that Faramir was avoiding me. He kept to his chamber and office, never venturing to the food hall or even to the gardens. When I tried to see him, he was too busy to attend me. I was deeply hurt and saddened by his withdrawal for I knew to the core of my being that he loved me and that we shared a bond that would last for ever. I had never considered myself a romantic, had never harboured hopes and dreams of love and romance, but I recognised in him a kindred spirit; that he was the other half of me and that without him I was incomplete. I would fight to the end of my days to reach out and pull him back from wherever his demons had driven him.
It was a momentous sight; the walls of the city thronged with citizens all eager to catch their first glimpse of the King. I found myself a position in front and to the side of the barrier set before the ruined gate. Faramir and the Captains faced the Pelennor and waited for the Royal entourage to step forward. The sound of a trumpet called for silence, and an expectant hush descended over the crowd.
All eyes were on the King, all eyes except mine. I had looked only long enough to catch sight of my brother, but once I had placed him, I couldn’t prevent my gaze ranging back to Faramir. I was far enough back and to the side that I could see his face in profile, and the bright morning sunlight cast his features into sharp relief, his cheekbones prominent, his eyes deep and shadowed. His black garb and cloak emphasised the pallor of his face and the dark smudges under his eyes. I could see a black silken sling about his neck, but it had been discarded and his arm was hanging limply at his side. I hoped that the intensity of my gaze would draw his attention, but if he knew I was there, he paid me no attention.
The ceremony progressed and Faramir surrendered his staff of office to the King; he seemed surprised when it was passed back to him, the King reaffirming his status as Steward. I saw Faramir falter and Hurin had to offer him his arm in support, though the gesture was hidden from general sight by the folds of his cloak.
The King was proclaimed by the people, and at the King’s request, Gandalf set the crown upon his head. The trumpets sounded a fanfare and the King’s standard was raised above the citadel.
As the Royal party began its progress up through the city, I moved to my brother’s side; he greeted me with joy and a hearty embrace and teased me gently for not heeding his request to travel to his side at Cormallen. He was so full of all that had happened that my preoccupation went unnoticed. I listened and responded but my attention was taken with seeking sight of Faramir. I finally caught sight of him; he was behind me in the procession. As we approached the Garden of the White Tree, I stepped to the side and waited for him to draw abreast of me. I grasped his arm and drew him into the garden. The walls surrounding the garden blocked out most of the noise, and we stood facing each other in the relative peace of the green oasis of calm.
And he appeared calm; his gaze locked to mine, and for an instant the world stilled and the two of us were suspended in a moment frozen in time. I looked into his eyes and saw love and longing…and then it had gone; a shutter had descended and he was closed to me. I put my hands to his face and would not allow him to look away. His cheeks burned beneath my fingers, and for the briefest of heartbeats he leaned into my touch.
When he spoke it was not words of love that I heard; instead, in a voice flat and devoid of emotion, he released me from our understanding. A cold shiver ran through me and I could not hide my hurt, but I did not release him. He gave no reason, no explanation; I challenged him to deny that he loved me, that his heart had changed…, and his sense of honour would not allow him to lie to me, but neither did he affirm his feelings. He asked me to leave him, distress plainly visible in his manner and bearing; but I would not walk away. And when he could bear it no longer, he turned and stumbled away as if the weight of the world pressed upon his shoulders.
I hated to show weakness but I couldn’t stop my tears. I stayed in the garden until I had composed my mind and my emotions. I had not given up on Faramir, my senses screaming loudly that all was not well with him; the heat of his face and the glazed look to his eyes were testament that it was more than despair that ailed him.
I comforted myself that no one knew of our attachment, or of our subsequent estrangement, and I would not broadcast the fact until I had had the chance to get to the root of Faramir’s withdrawal. That decision taken, I took a deep breath and made my way to the Hall of Feasting where the festivities were in full swing.
I caught sight of Merry and was introduced to his fellow Hobbits; they proved a lively group, but our conversation was cut short when Pippin was called away. He was absent for some time and when he returned he was obviously distressed. I sensed that he was reluctant to discuss the reason for his upset in my company, so I excused myself and left the Halflings to comfort their friend.
The afternoon passed quickly and I was introduced to many fair and noble folk. The room was crowded and, with the wine and ale flowing freely, the noise soon made conversation difficult. All the while I scanned the crowd for a sight of Faramir, but he was not to be seen. Towards early evening, I had a glimpse of him but when I looked again he had vanished into the throng.
As the evening celebrations drew to a close, I found it increasingly difficult to maintain a cheerful façade. I was at the point of seeking leave to withdraw when I heard the King ask after his Steward, but no one could recall seeing him.
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.