1. May Endure
When Faramir entered the room, Father's scowl deepened and he responded to Faramir's "Good morning" with only a curt nod. I pushed Faramir's bowl of porridge over to him. He dipped his spoon in and began to eat, slowly. Father was finished with his meal, and I nearly so, when Faramir was but halfway through. I could almost see Father grasping at the frayed edges of his patience.
"You should eat your breakfast like a man," he said, his voice level and dry. "When Boromir was your age, he was already the best among the lads. A good mind is of no use without a strong body."
I saw Faramir's hand clench his spoon as he bowed his head over his bowl. He held his silence, though, and I felt compelled to say something on his behalf.
"He's only nine, Father. There is time for him to improve."
My father's look softened a fraction as he turned towards me. "Your loyalty is creditable, Boromir, but be sure it is not misplaced. Faramir is old enough to understand that he must learn to do things that do not come easily to him, or that he may not like. Master Golasgil's report of Faramir's progress was excellent on all counts. From what Master Hallas said it is not inability but lack of effort that slows his progress in training at arms. You, Boromir, merited high praise from the armsmaster, and Master Golasgil spoke well of your effort, if not of its result. You will be the Steward one day, my son, and will need a better grasp of those skills that will serve you in the council-hall, not only those for the battlefield."
Now it was I who bit my lip and bent my head. I was glad that I would be out from under Father's eye for the rest of the day. Master Hallas had arranged to take half-a-dozen of the lads about my age, those who were most outstanding in our training, up into the mountains. It would not be an exceptionally strenuous journey, but would give us a taste of what it was like to be in the army, perhaps in the bleak hills on the Enemy's border. I finished the last bite of porridge and asked Father's permission to go. He nodded yes. Faramir, I thought, would seek the schoolroom. With Master Hallas away, he would not have to think about how he had failed to meet our father's expectations, but could spend this day doing what he loved best.
The sun was warm and bright on the snow still lying in the folds of the hills as we made our way up the rocky slopes. For the first hour or so we followed a well-traveled road to the quarries, but soon thereafter the paths faded to little more than goat-tracks. I enjoyed the walking, listening to Master Hallas as he talked about the landscape around us, and how one might best set men to defend the path, if it were important.
We were all more than ready to stop by midday and eat the bread and cheese in our packs. Valandor complained because he was still hungry afterward, but Master Hallas cut him off short, saying, "A soldier often has to endure short rations, and fight on top of that. You'll be home to a good supper, lad, which is more than most of them can hope for." After that Valandor was quiet.
As we made our way back towards the city, I saw Master Hallas look ahead. He let free with an oath that would have had my father thinking up new punishments if he had heard me use it. We all looked to see what he had seen – it looked like a pile of rags, there by the path, but there had been nothing there that morning. When Master Hallas reached the spot and knelt down, even from a distance I could see him stiffen. He called my name.
I went to him as quickly as I could; I think already I had guessed what he had found. My brother Faramir.
"He must have tried to follow us, and slipped." Master Hallas was carefully feeling Faramir's limbs, trying to see if anything was broken. "He's unconscious, but I cannot feel any break in the skull, just a very nasty bump. Some scrapes and cuts, but no other serious injuries." He stood up and beckoned to the other lads to come closer. "We'll have to carry him back."
Even though it was mostly downhill, it took rather longer to carry Faramir back to the city in the sling that Master Hallas rigged up than it had taken us to climb that distance in the morning. He still had not awakened when we arrived just after sunset. Father sent for the Warden from the Houses of Healing immediately, who shook his head gravely after making his examination. I stood in the corner of my brother's room, trying to be inconspicuous.
"I do not know, my lord. There is no damage to the skull, which might have been reparable, but to know whether there is bleeding in the brain itself is beyond any man's skill to determine. All that can be done is to wait and see," said the Warden. "Someone should stay and watch over him tonight. Have you a suitable woman?"
My father nodded. "Rhîwen, his old nurse, has offered."
"Good. Have her send for me if there is any change. Otherwise I will come again tomorrow." He left the room, Father accompanying him.
Rhîwen hugged me when she came in a moment later. "I would have expected it to be you, rascal. Faramir was always such a good, biddable boy – what came over him to do such a thing?" She pulled a chair over near the bed. "Ah, well, he'll be up and running about again in no time, I'm sure," she said comfortably. "Now. With all this fuss and bother, has anyone seen to it that you had your own supper?"
"No," I said, aware of the emptiness in my belly at last.
"Well, run down to the kitchens and get yourself something. A lad your age can't do without his meals."
"Can I – can I come back here?"
"If you like, for a time. But you're not to use this as an excuse not to go to bed, mind," she added.
I recalled the tricks I used to play when I was very young, hiding to delay my bedtime. Of course Rhîwen would remember that. "All right."
After I had eaten, I felt a little better, and decided that the queasy feeling in my stomach must have been as much hunger as worry. When I went back to Faramir's room, though, and saw him looking so small in his bed, his face almost as pale as the linen cases of his pillows, anxiety swept through me again.
"He will be all right?" I asked, and big as I was, I wanted to sit in Rhîwen's lap as if I were a mere babe. Instead I blinked hard and stood as straight as I could.
"Of course he will," she said, but I could tell that she was not as certain as she tried to sound.
I sat down on the edge of the bed. "Don't die, little brother," I whispered, looking at the curve of his dark lashes against his cheek, and the red slash of a scrape along his left jawline. "I need you – don't die."
Rhîwen sat and sewed, humming under her breath, a tune I recognized from the nursery. I just sat there, looking at Faramir and memorizing every inch of his face, not knowing if he would ever again open his eyes to look back at me. Then the door opened and Father came in.
"I will sit with him for a time," he said. "Boromir, go to your bed. It is late. Rhîwen – you may wait in the family's sitting room. I will call you later."
Rhîwen shook her head as she closed the door behind us, but said nothing. I went along the corridor as if obedient to Father's orders, but when I reached my own door, I looked over my shoulder. Rhîwen was no longer in sight, so I tiptoed back, curious, and looked through the keyhole of Faramir's door.
Father was kneeling by Faramir's bed, holding his hand, and weeping. I rubbed my eyes and stared. I had not seen him show any grief since just after Mother died. After a little time, he ceased, and began to talk to my brother, moving around the room. I could not make out the words, he spoke too softly, but he seemed to be looking at all the things that Faramir had collected around him – unusual insects and leaves that Master Golasgil had given him, shells gathered at the shore on visits to our grandfather in Dol Amroth, favorite books. He picked up one of the books and looked at it, then turned sharply towards Faramir and sighed. He pulled the chair that Rhîwen had been sitting in closer to the bed, sat down, and began reading aloud. I recognized the binding, even through the keyhole – it was a collection of old tales and poems that had belonged to Mother as far back as I could remember. Father was holding the book open with one hand, turning the pages with his thumb, while with the other hand he stroked Faramir's unruly hair back from his forehead.
A noise down the corridor recalled me, and as quietly as possible I darted back to my own room, leaving my father reading to my brother. I wondered if Faramir would hear him.
When I woke the next morning, the first thing on my mind was my brother. I pulled on my clothes, heedless of what I chose, and hurried to his room.
Rhîwen smiled when I came in. "He opened his eyes a little while ago. I've sent for your father, and for the Warden to look at him."
I thought Faramir still looked terrible, but what did I know? The Warden arrived first and pronounced him likely to make a full recovery. He admonished Rhîwen to let Faramir have only broth and milk for a day or two, and to make sure that he stayed in bed for at least three days more. "Nothing active," he said. "You may read to him, if he wants, but he should not read for himself for several days. Nothing to strain his eyes and his head." He smiled and patted Faramir's shoulder. "Just a precaution, lad. You'll be fit again in no time."
Father was less kindly. "Well, Faramir. You were disobedient, leaving your lessons with Master Golasgil without permission. Once you are recovered I will expect you to make up the time lost, both with him and with Master Hallas. Do you understand me?"
Faramir nodded slightly, his lips pinched.
"You have a responsibility to your family and to your people, Faramir. Disobedience, risking injury with no cause – these are not the actions of an honorable man. I want you to think about that." Father stood with his hands clasped behind his back. "Rest and recover yourself. I will come to see you again tonight." He left.
I went over to Faramir's bed. Tears stood in his eyes, but he pretended not to notice, and I did too. "Are you hungry?" I asked him.
He gulped and whispered, "Yes, please."
"Rhîwen, could you please bring him some meat broth?"
"I'll do that – and bring your breakfast as well, Boromir, if you'll stay with your brother till I get back," she said, bustling out. I waited until the door had closed behind her before speaking again.
"Why did you follow us?"
Faramir was silent for a moment, then muttered, "I am no weakling or coward, whatever Master Hallas says. I thought going out on the mountain would show that I would be willing to make the effort. Practice is dull. I would rather read about the great rulers of the past, or study the stars, or even work arithmetic problems."
"I know. And I would rather improve my skill with the sword than the pen. But following us – that was foolish of you, Faramir, though I can see why you did it." I bent to hug him, then thinking that I might jostle his head and hurt him, squeezed his hand instead. "Do you remember what happened? How you fell, or anything since?"
"Not really. I think I must have slipped on a loose stone, but I'm not certain." He bit his lip. "Before I woke I dreamt that someone held me and spoke to me. I thought it was you, but it wasn't your voice."
He looked sad. "No," I told him, "but Father was here last night, before you woke up. He chased me and Rhîwen out, when he came back from the council chambers. He was reading to you from Mother's old book of stories."
I did not tell him that Father had wept. Faramir looked doubtful enough that Father had even come to sit with him – he would never have believed that he had wept. I could hardly believe it myself.
"Oh," he whispered. "That's what I heard, then."
"He must have been reading the story of Beren and Lúthien. Bring me the book, please, Boromir."
"You aren't supposed to read," I protested, but I brought it. "I'll look. What am I looking for?"
"When Thingol sends Beren off to find the Silmaril. What does Lúthien say to Thingol?"
I found the page, and read the line. "She says, ‘You sent him out to die.' That makes no sense, Faramir. Why would you remember that? Father didn't send you yesterday, you sneaked out without permission."
He began to shrug, then stopped, wincing. "I don't know. But that's what I heard."
In silence, his eyes held mine.
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.