Disclaimer: I own only the things you don't recognize.
Author's Notes: I'll let my darling beta Mandi take it from here and do mine at the bottom.
And now for a message from the coherent one of this duo: Hi everyone! Just a comment from Mandi, Jacks' beta-reader. I would definitely recommend having a box of tissues handy while reading this. This fic put me to tears. To date, Jacks is the only writer who has done this, and this is twice now! *glares at Jacks* Stop killing off my favorite characters, dammit!
Aragorn paused in the doorway, still unused to this. He felt a pang in his heart, knowing it was unlikely he would become used to it, simply for lack of time.
Faramir seemed diminished somehow, lying still in the vast bed that had held him for many days, since his return to the white city of his birth. His youngest son, Theoan, sat by his side, watching his father sleep. He looked up as Aragorn entered the chamber and would have risen had his King not waved the formality aside.
"How does he fare?" Aragorn asked quietly.
Theoan shrugged, "He sleeps."
"He needs rest," Aragorn said, resting a hand upon the man's shoulder. "Your wife and daughter wait for you. Go. I will watch over him for a time."
Theoan looked reluctant but knew well it was not a request. Had he been allowed, Faramir's youngest son would have stayed at his father's side day and night. It was unnecessary and, though his heart was in the right place, he tended to fuss over his father to the point of excess.
Aragorn smiled sadly as the younger man kissed his father's brow before he departed. Of all Faramir's children his second son had the least sense of peace over the events to come. Elboron and Morwen had long since found their peace of it and his youngest daughter, Eirien, had at least accepted it. Theoan, however, would not believe it even as his father's strength waned.
Faramir was dying. Time had caught up with the noble man, as it caught up with all, in the end.
The door shut behind Theoan with a soft snick. Aragorn looked down at his long time friend to find undimmed grey eyes looking expectantly up at him.
"Are we playing truant then?" Faramir asked, smiling.
Aragorn chuckled fondly as he aided his Steward, always his Steward, to sit up and retrieved his warmest cloak. "Yes, despite the lecture I shall receive for it."
"Morwen will be my sitter when we return," Faramir told him, his voice suddenly soft, "She understands."
"I know," Aragorn said, tying his friend's hair, near snow white with age, back from his face as Faramir had preferred in the passing months. "Theo will find his peace with time."
Faramir smiled, his eyes distant for a moment, "Yes, he will."
Aragorn smiled faintly, making sure his friend was warmly dressed before aiding him to his feet. Arthritis had settled into the old soldier's joints, particularly his knees and hands, and for the past few weeks Faramir could not walk unaided to his good natured chagrin. With aid he managed still, but only barely.
Still, he made daily excursions from his room with the aid of his King and the indulgence of his two eldest children. Several people aided him, though Aragorn suspected correctly he would be the one to receive a lecture from Theoan if they were caught.
"Where are we to venture today?" Aragorn asked as they slipped quietly from Faramir's chamber. Though he said nothing, Aragorn knew Faramir did not enjoy being seen needing aid to even stand which made discretion necessary.
"The garden," Faramir answered simply.
Legolas met them at the end of the hall only to disappear with but a quick smile when Aragorn nodded at him. Faramir looked at his King with a bemused expression.
"We had guessed your choice," Aragorn explained.
"Ah. We? Who is involved this time?" Faramir asked, clearly amused.
"Best not to tell in case you are pressed to give us away," Aragorn replied.
Faramir snorted, "I am the invalid, if you would recall. There is little I am not excused from!"
Aragorn chuckled. It sometimes felt ridiculous to him, this game they played, the elders sneaking off behind their children's backs but he relished it all the same. Faramir did also, he knew, but the journeys about the city were done in secret as much for fun as to spare pain.
Not all of Faramir's family understood that what he suffered no man recovered from and sought to make him rest so as to regain strength that was forever lost. Faramir understood it but he needed the chance to breathe the fresh air while he was still able.
Legolas waited for them in the garden, once belonging to Faramir's mother, then his wife, now his daughter. There were pillows waiting for him upon the long wooden bench that had been placed there for Eomer King, who, being gone to his ancestors, scarcely needed it anymore.
They settled him upon it, using his cloak as a blanket. None wanted him to catch chill and so cheat him of remaining time. Faramir did not look for death but neither would he run from it.
Aragorn sat upon the ground, leaning against the wooden frame of the bench. Legolas claimed the hammock that swung gently between two trees. Faramir smiled fondly in remembrance.
That had once been a favourite spot of his wife while they were within the White City. She was gone ahead of him these past four years.
He stirred himself from his memories, looking out upon the garden, spring buds well in bloom, and then to the peppered head of his King. "Does the white tree yet bloom?"
Aragorn's smile was somewhat bittersweet. He tilted his head up to look into questioning grey eyes. "Not yet, my Steward, not yet."
Not a day had passed since Faramir had returned to his birthplace that the question had not been posed. Neither had a day passed when a bud of the White Tree blossomed into a flower though all around it the land bloomed.
"Soon, I suspect," Faramir murmured. He looked out, gazing at the blue sky and green fields spread before him, seeing the houses and farms that dotted the view to the horizon. He smiled. "It will be soon."
"You are fey as always," Legolas observed, looked at his companions. He alone of the Fellowship bore not the signs of age upon his skin, though he began to feel them in his heart.
Faramir chuckled, "That will not change, nor would I have it, despite the past."
"It is closer to you now," Aragorn commented, rising to perch upon the edge of the bench, looking down at his Steward. He brushed a few escaped hairs off the calm face.
"Yes, perhaps as I am about to become the past I feel more of the future," Faramir smiled but his eyes changed in the slightest, as if he saw past his King, his voice soft and somehow deeper as he intoned, "I feel them with me now, at times very strongly."
Aragorn laid his hand upon Faramir's cheek, bringing him back to them. He smiled at the peace he saw upon his Steward, that he had seen often in times of late. "Tarry awhile yet, Faramir, we will not be parted from you yet."
"I am not going anywhere," Faramir replied. "I have not yet finished reading my book."
Aragorn laughed, taking Faramir's face gently in both his hands for a moment, "That is because you continuously fall asleep before many pages have been read!"
"I will finish that book," Faramir said, not acknowledging Aragorn's comment in the least. "It will be maddening if I do not. I shall find no peace until I learn the end of such tales."
"The best tales are yet being written." Aragorn looked up and smiled at his wife, who joined them at last, carrying a basket with her. "Just ask your grandson."
Faramir chuckled, "Barahir is ambitious with his histories."
"When he begins to draft the tale of your love we will see what you think," Aragorn replied with a grin. It had surprised both he and Arwen that there would be an interest of the tale of their love but did not mind and in ways found it flattering.
"He will be pouring over yours for years to come yet," Faramir predicted. "Besides, our love was found amidst battles and Frodo penned most of it in his account. I doubt Barahir will see the need for a rewrite."
"Perhaps he will reconstruct it into prose," Arwen teased, her tinkling laughter sounding as Faramir blushed.
"If his writing takes after mine in that regard, my dear lady, none will want to read it!" Faramir smiled at the teasing.
"Not always did laughter meet your attempts," Legolas commented, a mischievous smile upon his fair face. "Eowyn, for example, never laughed."
"We long ago struck a bargain that she would not laugh at my poetry if I did not laugh at her cooking," Faramir said dryly.
"Do not remind me," Aragorn groaned. "I spent much time in the wilds on diets that would turn hard stomachs yet I never tasted anything as bad as that stew she concocted."
"She could not stomach it herself," Faramir chuckled. "She tasted it once then decided we should have a cook or I should take over the kitchen."
"So you were the one who tempted my cook away to Ithilien," Aragorn concluded.
"I could not help it if he felt it was his duty to save me from the cooking of my wife and myself simply because he had kept me from my father's cooking my whole life," Faramir replied. "And as you said, you had survived all those years in the wilds so there was no doubt you would manage."
Arwen laughed and began to unpack the basket she had brought with her. "Well you will all savour or suffer through my cooking this day as I have brought lunch for us and you will eat, Faramir, or I shall see to it you receive those herbal drinks you abhor from the Houses."
Faramir looked at Aragorn with amusement, "We are fools if we believed we were ever in control of things, brother."
"A delusion I shed very early," Aragorn replied. "And do not think I will dare to go against her."
"Perish the thought," Faramir shifted and winced slightly. "I should like to eat with the rest of you."
The pillows were shifted to the ground as Arwen spread out a blanket for the food near the bench so Faramir could sit leaning against it, his knees bent slightly to relieve as much pain as possible in the joints. Aragorn wordlessly removed the slipper like shoes he wore so his bare feet rested on the grass. Legolas sat cross-legged next to him as Arwen dished out the food.
It was all very carefully selected for Faramir's stomach excepted less than it once had: a thick, cream soup, bread with ample honey, apple cranberry crumble for dessert and well-diluted wine to drink. Too strong a drink interfered with the brews Aragorn concocted for him that he had come to rely on, despite the fact his father had often said a good brandy was better than any healer's brew.
Legolas took Faramir's hand, arthritic for the long life as a soldier in often damp and cold conditions and made terribly so for all the years spent drawing a bow, and curled it around the light wooden spoon. This task fell to Legolas on the days Faramir could still hold the utensil, for Elven senses alone could determine the point that would be least painful for Faramir.
Legolas held the bowl of soup at a good level with one hand and ate deftly with the other. The watered wine he drank from a straw while the glass was held for him. It pained him too much to curl and uncurl his hand when he wished to drink. The same held for the honeyed bread, once his hand was curled delicately around a piece he ate it all to save from setting it down again.
None of them acknowledged the arrangement, though Morwen had burst into tears to see at first and Elboron, who knew his father best of the children as he took after his namesake in most ways, looked decidedly pale and grim. Faramir did not speak of it in any way to any being. It simply was.
Faramir managed to finish half the soup, a slice and a half of bread and, after Arwen announced he had better eat his serving of crumble because she made it especially for him, the small amount of dessert he was given before declaring himself stuffed. It was more than he had eaten in one sitting in days.
He fell asleep then. They shifted him until he was lying on Legolas' cloak so as not to let any dampness from the ground seep into him. Legolas arranged the pillows so he would be comfortable, making sure two went under his knees to get them at the proper angle where they would be aggravated the least. His head was pillowed on Aragorn thigh, the hair tie gone for comfort's sake, and the healer King laid a hand upon his cheek, fingers trailing part way down his neck, so he could sooth and monitor his Steward's pulse and breathing at once.
They chattered quietly while Faramir dozed in the sun. The talk was idle for the most part though they discussed briefly the council Aragorn and Elboron would attend that night. Faramir had long ago passed the white rod to his son, having created something of a scandal as he had not waited for death to do so, and laughing teased his eldest about having to suffer through the often long and tedious sessions.
Not so long of late though, for both King and Steward were distracted by the fading of their brother and father respectively and the rest of the council were not unaffected by his body's evident decline. He was, in a sense, the last of an age of men who had been born to fight against Sauron before the King returned. He was one of the last of so many fathers, grandfathers and uncles who had gone before him and who had passed their stories onto the next generations.
Aragorn remained, yes, but Faramir was Gondor's son, as were his remaining cousins, and had never known another life. They were history and would become legends and myths in turn, and they were all that was left of those that lived and remained.
He woke only when Legolas moved to pick him up and voiced not a protest to being carried back to his chamber. It was a turn of luck he did not, for on their return journey they nearly ran into two of the younger counselors who they only dodged because of Legolas' swift and silent feet and Arwen providing a distraction so the other three could slip away.
They arrived back at Faramir's chamber laughing nearly breathlessly at the near incident. Morwen greeted them with a stern look that dissolved upon the sight of her father, laughing to the point of tears. When they managed to control themselves Faramir was settled into bed and Legolas departed to seek out Gimli, who had disappeared to a tavern in the early afternoon.
Morwen took up the book and began to read from the marked page. The weight had been too much on his hands and wrists for months but there was an abundance of family willing to read to him and indulgent to his habit of falling asleep during the reading.
Aragorn helped him drink three of the so dubbed foul potions and began further tending to the joints that pained him. An ointment that eased the inflammation was applied liberally to his hands, wrists and knees, as well as other joints not quite so painful. His muscles were massaged and manipulated so they did not deteriorate completely.
Aragorn preferred to do this personally though both Faramir's sons and two of his healer grandchildren could as well. Since calling him from the grip of the Black Breath Aragorn had looked after his Steward when injured, caring for him when age was the injury seemed more a comfort than aught else.
Aragorn massaged the soothing salve onto Faramir's gnarled hands, applying more than a little of his healer's touch to ease his Steward's pain. Faramir's eyes were closed but Aragorn knew by his breathing he did not sleep yet. At a nod from him, Morwen continued reading.
He looked at the hand he held in both his own, at the permanently swollen joints and remembered that scarcely a year ago they were not so. Faramir had remained very youthful in looks and heart until Eowyn died on a fall's day in Ithilien. In a year he aged more than he had in decades, such was their love.
To an extent he had recovered from her loss and for three more years his body held strong before illness had taken him. From there his body began to fail him.
Age may have caught up with his body but it was not the same tale for his mind. He was as sharp as he ever had been and, or so Gimli and Legolas claimed, a trifle wittier. For all he had diminished he was not bereft. His sight was not what his used to be but it was still keen and his hearing sharp. Up to the illness he had been active still, slowed down because of the occasional flares of pain from his joints, but not halted.
In the winter that was only weeks at an end he had taken ill and it had worsened until Elboron called Aragorn to his Steward's side. He had not died, sweating and ranting in high fever, but much damage had been done. The remaining winter was spent husbanding his strength, largely gathering it wrapped in a nest of blankets before a fire as a book was read to him, and come spring he had made his intention to return to Minas Tirith known.
They had departed on a marvelously sunny day with all of Ithilien in bloom. The day before had been spent walking through his Estate with many members of his family, drinking in the sights the land he loved. Finally he sat through the sunset and well into the night with his children in the first garden he and Eowyn had lovingly tended, where their children had played as mere babies.
Elboron had supported him in the carriage the next morning and through the back window he watched the sun rise over the fields and forests and all that they passed by as the day grew on until the last glimpse of his province was gone from sight. Ithilien, where his blood had spilt and his children had grown. His best and nearly his worst times had been spent in the fair land.
Then he had laid his head upon his son's shoulder and closed his eyes. Elboron had drawn his father close and pressed a kiss to his snowy hair as Faramir murmured, "These eyes have looked upon her for the last time, my child, take care of her in my absence."
He slept soundly until they caught sight of the white city when Elboron woke him, as he had been asked. They blew the silver trumpets as the carriage passed through and the King awaited his Steward where the carriage stopped. Greetings were made short before Elboron carried his father to bed where Faramir hardly stirred for near two days.
Politically none of his decline had a direct impact, though those who knew him were somewhat distracted. On his one hundred and tenth birthday Faramir had, in his biggest bout of being untraditional, passed the white rod and his duties as Prince of Ithilien to his son. It had created quite the stir, for there were still years of life in him. Faramir had still been healthy and relatively youthful then and Eowyn enough so for a Rohirrim of her vast age.
Five years they had spent free from duty, immersed in family affairs and other pet projects they created or completed. One year Faramir spent in total devotion to his wife, who had not the advantage of his bloodlines but who had kept up til then well enough!
One year spent in mourning. Near three spent as he had before Eowyn died though they were lonelier and, as Legolas had remarked and those closest to him had noticed, with many of Faramir's fey ways more evident and finally, the twilight setting in.
Aragorn knew already that the twilight was not something he would know. Faramir had not the strength in his blood nor the powers of the Numenoreans in the same way. Faramir was at peace about this end and Aragorn was at peace about what he now knew to be his, though they differed in this choice.
He washed the salve from his hands and sat beside Faramir upon the bed. Grey eyes opened as he brushed back the white strands. Morwen left silently to give the two a few moments alone.
"Will you rest now, for a while?" Aragorn asked quietly.
"Mm-hmm. It would be rather rude to fall asleep when my grandchildren come to visit," Faramir replied, his lips twitching into a smile. "Have they spilled over to the fifth circle yet?"
Aragorn laughed. Travelers could not find a room within the sixth circle for all the family that had come ere Faramir passed. "A few perhaps, and many have found their way through taverns on all circles. Gimli leads the tour, I believe."
"Out drinking all, I am sure, save the Elf he most wishes to best!" Faramir chuckled.
"So long as you do not partake of the ale he slips you he can drink all he wishes under the table!" Aragorn smiled fondly. "Do you need a sleeping draught?"
Faramir snorted, "I would sleep for a week! Nay, the pain is not so bad at present."
"Good, and you will tell me when it is," Aragorn murmured, knowing too well the stubbornness to be found in his Steward.
"Yes, you I will tell," Faramir replied around a yawn. His grey eyes drooped, becoming fuzzy with sleep.
Aragorn sat with him until he slept and Morwen took his place when he departed so as to make ready for the council. It was tedious, as was normal, but short, as was not, and he wished the meetings would soon be delayed altogether.
Aragorn found his time spent observing Faramir's eldest. Elboron made a fine Steward and Aragorn knew that when both he and Faramir were gone their sons would long keep their lands save and splendid. The two, as their fathers had greatly hoped, were fast friends as they were also with Elfwine. Those who were now inheriting Arda were not their fathers yet were great in their own ways.
Elboron was near painfully like his namesake in look, bearing, spirit and not in the least in his opinions of his father, who, of all the children and grandchildren he had, knew Faramir best for their differences. Like Boromir before him he thought Faramir the very best of men, whom none could rival, save perhaps the King who was never a rival but an ally. Faramir, for his part, felt likewise of his brother and could not love better or be more proud of his eldest son.
With looks so like his beloved brother it could have been that Faramir looked upon his son and saw the one who was lost to him for long years but it was not so for there were differences between them and Faramir would not change those traits for the world. Elboron was as fierce in all he did as Boromir had been but steadier and became more so with age. He had the loud presence of Boromir but as if through a pane of glass, dimmed and the tone changed in the slightest.
Morwen seemed very much a mixture of her parents. Dark of hair but blue of eyes and slender as both, she was a scholar through and through but with such expressions and simple moments of Eowyn. At times it was bewildering, for their were shades of Eomer King in her as well and to hear his words from the mouth of the fair scholar, it often made Faramir laugh and sometimes wish to cry from both joy and sorrow.
Theoan, named for Eowyn's kin gone ahead, often reminded Faramir of his father, or rather, his father with no trace of the bitter years that Denethor had endured, though his features most favoured his mother. Cunning, shrewd and exceedingly stubborn and awkward, in Theoan could also be seen Eowyn's mother, who loved so loyally and fiercely she followed her husband into death, and there too was much of Faramir's gently heart.
Eirien was the youngest and perhaps shone the brightest of all in life. She was her uncle's, bold and brash in speech with never a need to bandy about with words and the often astounding ability to cuss like a sailor while looking the picture of a lady. She had all the charm and fairness of Boromir and Eomer and took to arms as easily as she took to breathing. In her, too, was Imrahil's easy cheer and wonderful kindness.
Like her uncles save for that she fell hard and fast in love young with Mablung's third son, a Ranger himself and a very good man, like his father. She married and bore two of Faramir's grandchildren before the others gave much thought to matrimony. Above all, Eirien was happy and Faramir begrudged her not a moment of life, though her exploits as a child and even later caused him unnumbered headaches.
Morwen married the Lord of Lossarnach's second son, who became lord of the land when his brother died unmarried and childless. They were a quiet match, but no less in love for it and Morwen was deeply grieved when her husband died young. She remained for the sake of her children, her eldest, a son, just seventeen when he became lord of Lossarnach. The pair had surprised all by having five children, the first a son, then triplets, an unheard of number, and finally a last daughter who came into the world early delivered by Eowyn's hand, with Faramir's nervous help, in a carriage on the way to Minas Tirith.
She became a very self-sufficient widow when her son found his feet, eventually returning to Emyn Arnen with her youngest child, the triplets having found lives of their own as their elder brother had, and became the chief archivist of the grand library her father built.
Theoan married third, a plump, rosy cheeked girl from Dol Amroth with copper hair and a tender heart whom he adored and was adored by in turn. They were mushily in love to the point of it being sickly for others to observe. Theoan moved to Dol Amroth for her, for she had an elderly, ailing mother to care for, and fell promptly in love with the sea and only strayed upon business or when he brought his family to visit their relatives.
Elboron married last, a tall woman who matched him not in looks, for he was very fair, but had a keen mind and a sunny, joking temperament. She had ancestors of Rohan on her mother's side and her family had kept many Rohirric traditions alive and, to Eowyn's great joy, could best any of the family save her mother-in-law upon a horse. They had two children, two sons, but the births were difficult and they were unable to have more, though they wanted them. With them also lived Beren, son of Bergil, who was Elboron's greatest friend and sword sworn.
It was quite the brood, for a house Denethor was lamented had come to an end. They were large and loud and thoroughly immersed in each other's business to such a point it bewildered Faramir, unused to such attention, even as he relished every moment of it. His family was ever precious to him and he loved them to distraction.
Elboron hurried away when Aragorn brought the council to a close. The grandchildren would be visiting soon and Elboron did the duty of helping his father bathe, washing, combing and trimming his hair and shaving him, for he had preferred his face smooth for quite some time.
Aragorn smiled. They all had their intimacies with Faramir now, in caring for him.
His own son slipped quietly into the room, caught his eye and smiled at him. Eldarion had handled some of his duties for him so he could attend Faramir and had done an admirable job so far. He would make a fine King when the time came.
Elboron tied his hair back, nimble fingers braiding the single plait his father wore, a symbol of his and Eowyn's love which he had worn since they were wed. He spread lather over his neck and cheeks and picked up the razor, tilting his father's head to one side with care.
"So who shall stay with me this day?" Faramir inquired after the blade made the first clean swipe.
"I shall," Elboron replied with a hint of a grin. "No fussing, I promise, but I shall know when you are truly tiring."
"No sleeping draughts," Faramir said firmly.
"I know." Elboron's deft fingers drew the blade of his father's skin.
"And do not agree," Faramir observed.
"You do not have easy nights," Elboron commented.
"Not yet, Boro. Soon, but not yet," Faramir said quietly.
"Theoan does not understand," Elboron sighed. "He will not be stirred from your side at night."
"I know," Faramir sighed, his heart aching for his youngest son. "He will make his peace with my death."
"I worry you will not be present when he does," Elboron said, "and that he will not forgive himself for his lack of acceptance."
"I share your concerns but fear there is little I can do. He will not heed my guidance on the matter, nor yours, nor anyone's," Faramir's eyes grew distant and his voice soft. "He will find his peace."
Elboron paused then chuckled softly and Faramir seemed to come back to himself. He chuckled as well. "I know."
"I said nothing," Elboron replied, a smile in his voice.
"You thought it, I am your father I know these things," Faramir reminded him.
Elboron wiped the last of the lather from his father's face and bent to press a fond kiss to his brow. He helped his father dress in warm, soft clothing. Faramir could manage all but the few shirt fastenings.
"Where am I taking you?" Elboron asked as he helped his father to stand.
"By the fire," Faramir decided. "But...I may later wish to move to the bed."
Elboron looked at his father with slight alarm. Faramir smiled sadly. "No fussing, remember Boro?"
"No, I..." He swallowed as he settled his father into the comfortable padded chair and tucked a blanket around him. "The days pass too quickly, it seems. Do you know...?"
"Soon it all I know," Faramir sighed. "I can feel it is all and I find myself tiring quickly today."
Elboron nodded, not trusting his voice, and looked at his father with moist eyes. Faramir's face softened. "Oh, Boro. Come here, child."
Elboron went and hugged his father tightly to him. Faramir kissed his son's peppered hair as Elboron's face pressed against his neck. Faramir felt tears against his skin and tightened his arms around his son as much as he was able. His son held him tightly in strong arms, the warmth of his body helping drive the chill from his father, though he did not know it. It was not often that Faramir did not feel cold since the winter.
Elboron pulled back, after a good time, wiped his eyes and summoned a small smile for his father. He did not apologize for his tears; he was not ashamed to weep before his father.
Faramir put his hands against Elboron's face, unable to thread his fingers through the curly hair as he had when the boy was younger, and searched his face intently. After a moment, Elboron placed his hands atop his father's and turned his face to kiss his palm.
"I am well," he said, softly.
Faramir chuckled a bit, "We are none of us well, son, do not think I do not see it."
"Then I do not begrudge you this leave taking," Elboron amended. "Though I shall miss you very much when that time comes."
"You shall not find me so far away as you suppose, I think," Faramir told him. One hand slipped from beneath his son's and pressed against Elboron's chest. "There is much of me here, after all."
Elboron smiled, for there was no great compliment to him than a comparison to his father, and drew back, rearranging the blanket that lay about his father's waist. Faramir paused him with a touch of his palm to his son's arm.
"Would you do me the favour of fetching me the topmost item in the chest under the bed?" Faramir inquired lightly.
Elboron nodded, any confusion of the request hidden. Legolas had brought the chest, along with several others, when he arrived in Minas Tirith days after Faramir had arrived. What was contained within was not discussed between even the two old friends.
It was wrapped in blue fabric and felt rather lumpy. He handed it to his father, who clumsily unwrapped the fabric and withdrew a sheathed dagger that Elboron had seen before upon his father's belt.
"You know my brother was ever my protector," Faramir began. "This he gave me the morning he set out for Rivendell to do so while he was on his journey. It came to him from a Captain named Thorongil, who knew him as a boy before I was born, and was fond of the Steward's son. He left it in the keeping of my uncle, to be given to my brother when he entered the army."
Faramir passed the dagger to his son. "For the full significance of it, you shall have to ask the King."
Elboron smiled slightly for he knew full well who Thorongil was. "I shall keep it safe for you."
"No, it shall keep you save for me, or so I hope," Faramir said. "Between us, Boro, let us call it what it is."
"A parting gift," Elboron murmured.
"Don't fret, I have books set aside for you as well, perhaps this time you shall read them," Faramir teased. Elboron had never been the scholar he was.
Elboron laughed and there came a knock at the door. Faramir looked up at his son.
"Remind me, who is coming first."
The family had worked out something of a schedule so each would have their moment and Faramir would not be overly crowded. "My son, Barahir. Shall I fetch anything?"
"No, no, he can do that if needed," Faramir replied with a grin. "Show my grandson in."
Barahir entered and hugged his father briefly before Elboron settled across the room, going over some paperwork idly. The game of sneaking out aside, where Aragorn and often Legolas accompanied him, Faramir was never left alone by his children, who knew how to care for him should he need it.
Barahir greeted his grandfather with a hug and a kiss to the cheek. They had a special bond, these two, for Faramir was a great scholar and Barahir strove to be. Barahir, Faramir had once remarked, seem to soak up information as if he were a very thirsty oliphaunt to which Elboron had added his curiosity was nearly too great and edged upon a nosey side at times. The quest for knowledge was something Faramir greatly understood though.
"How are you, grandfather?" Barahir asked, taking one hand into both of his own as he sat beside Faramir.
"Well enough," Faramir answered. "Your journey here was uneventful I take it?"
"As I met up with most of Uncle Theo's brood on my way it certainly was not!" Barahir grinned. "Those daughters of his chatter like squirrels."
Faramir laughed. "And how did you find Dol Amroth?"
Barahir smiled, a little in love with the sea himself. He had inherited his grandfather's sea legs, to the envy of his brother and father. "It is beautiful as always. There is something wonderfully indulgent about going over my notes upon white sand with a cold drink beside my pen."
Faramir laughed aloud and shook his head in mirth. "I think your Great Uncle Imrahil would call it not an indulgence but the only proper way to handle paperwork."
"Well you have always told me he was a wise man," Barahir said, smiling.
"That he was," Faramir agreed with a slightly distant smile. "I wonder, do you think you might be able to go over a few more notes?"
"Of course, grandfather," Barahir replied quickly.
"I fear it would take some time, there are quite a few," Faramir told him. "I have dabbled a bit in the more recent history of our family, you see, that which is not yet part of the archives and... Well, did you see the chests in the antechamber?"
"Which ones?" Barahir asked.
"All of them," Faramir replied.
Barahir gulped a bit. There were five and they were rather large. He repeated, "All of them?"
"Yes, though Legolas has two more, I believe," Faramir grinned slightly at his grandson's expression. Barahir looked as if he had swallowed something unpleasant. He did, after all, have his own interests he was in the midst of pursuing and he was incredibly meticulous, to the point where it took him years to compile all the information he wanted before put pen to paper.
"There are, I confess, also my notes on the rest of our House's history. The accounts of the Stewards are rather disjointed, partly because of what was lost during the war, and I had hoped to see a full history of our family penned," Faramir chuckled as Barahir grew paler. "It is, unfortunately, too great a job for one man."
He leaned forward a bit, "And I do not expect you should finish it either."
The look of relief made Faramir laugh and he patted the hands the held his own. "You are as ambitious as I have been but on different subjects and your ambitions I do believe will be realized. I am not going to add another history, and one of such great undertaking, on you."
"It is not that I do not wish to learn all the history it is simply..." Barahir began.
"Compiling and writing it will be too great a task, I know, it is why I could not finish it," Faramir told him. "You have your own works to finish but I would ask you to keep them safe for a time and any contributions you might find would, of course, be wonderful."
"I will, thank you," Barahir said. Then he looked intently at his grandfather. "What is in them, exactly?"
Faramir's eyes twinkled. "Feel free to explore."
Barahir grinned in delight. He already had his own notes concerning his family, stories he heard from boyhood that he had written down. He was always eager to hear more of them. "But who am I saving them for, specifically? I know they must be preserved otherwise but..." He looked closely at his grandfather, "You have another idea."
"I am confident you shall figure it out," Faramir replied with a smile.
"That is entirely unfair," Barahir retorted pleasantly.
"Oh, undoubtedly so," Faramir chuckled. "Now, tell me more about this love story you are compiling..."
Barahir did and kissed his grandfather's brow upon leaving and thanked him for the... details he had shared concerning his King and Queen. Other family came and went, most with gifts of some sort or another as they departed. Faramir had been giving such things away subtly for three years but few had noticed the significance. He tired and Elboron carried him to the bed and only allowed a few more visitors before he insisted his father rest.
Elboron helped him change into sleep clothes, for Faramir insisted still on getting dressed more formally every day, and brushed out his hair. A discreet message from a page brought Aragorn to the chamber, for Faramir's face had whitened with pain during the last visit.
They settled him with a potion to relieve the pain and warm milk laced with honey, not a sleeping draught as he insisted. Aragorn rubbed more salve on his aching joints while Elboron reclined on the bed next to his father, drawing the snowy head to rest upon his shoulder and stroking his hair as he fell asleep.
Theoan arrived shortly after Aragorn departed. He had been kept busy all day on purpose. Faramir worried about him and had enlisted the help of his wife and children to keep him out in the sunshine until night began to fall. It had not been his intention to fall asleep before his son returned.
Theoan was distressed to find his father sleeping, cradled in Elboron's arms which he knew meant he was doing poorly. Elboron gently laid his father onto the bed and covered him with the warm blankets before going to his brother, who hovered uncertainly in the doorway, and embracing him.
"He has not been well," Theoan murmured. It was not a question.
Elboron held his little brother tighter. "No, Theo. He was weary and in pain."
Theoan sighed and looked up at his brother, gently pulling away from him. "He did not take a sleep draught, did he?"
"No," Elboron answered.
"He has visions. He wakes in the night from them or from pain now too. He says they were not bad but still they wake him," Theoan ran a hand through his hair, tugging it in frustration. "He needs better rest if he is to recover."
"Theo..." Elboron sighed.
"He can recover, Boro. He can. He has to," Theoan's voice rose just slightly, still very much aware his father slept near by. "Why is everyone so quick to give up on him? Why...Why is everyone so quick to believe he will die? He is still strong, he can still..."
He trailed off and ran a shaking hand through his hair again. Elboron did not have the heart to press him on the matter. They had had this conversation many times and it only served to frustrate both and push them to words they did not intend to speak. Elboron folded his brother in his arms again. He felt Theoan's hands tremble against his back before clutching his tunic.
"You know how he hates sleeping draughts, he feels so groggy for days after he takes them," Elboron said.
"I know," Theoan sighed, removing himself from his brother's embrace and taking a seat next to his father's bedside. He brushed a lock of white hair from his forehead and his hand lingered upon his father's cheek. Faramir gave a soft sigh and turned into the touch.
Elboron's hands rest upon his shoulders. "Do you wish me to stay for a time?"
Theoan shook his head. "No, I can keep watch."
"I meant stay for your sake," Elboron said quietly.
"I shall be fine," Theoan said. He looked up at his elder brother with such a look in his eyes Elboron gripped his shoulders firmly and thought briefly of insisting upon staying. "Thank you."
Elboron nodded. He thought again to stay but...no, Theoan did this duty for their father and staying unasked would seem an intrusion. "If you have need for me..."
"I will send for you," Theoan smiled faintly. "And I know you will come."
Elboron departed, though reluctantly, to meet Aragorn, who had returned and was waiting for him outside his father's rooms. "My lord."
Aragorn nodded to him, a sad smile about his lips. "There are a few things we should discuss of what will happen when he passes and before it."
Elboron nodded slowly. "Yes, but...no talk of his funeral."
"I find myself unable to bear thinking of it for long myself," Aragorn agreed. "Luckily much of it is traditional and requires a lesser amount of thought but let us leave it at that for now. Come, I think some food and a good wine would not be amiss."
"Not in the least," Elboron agreed. He smiled, eyes distant, then and drew the dagger from his belt, seeing Aragorn's eyes widen slightly in recognition. "There is a tale my father wishes you to share with me..."
Faramir woke to a birdsong, the dim light of false dawn and the sight of his youngest son's head resting upon his arms on the bed close to him. Theoan was hunched over, still sitting in the chair next to the bed. Blonde hair, liberally streaked with white, obscured his face as he dozed.
Faramir shifted slightly to put his hand upon the mop but before he could move that far Theoan woke and bolted upright. Faramir chuckled, "Good morning, son."
Theoan scrubbed a hand over his face and blinked a few times then winced as slight pain raced up his back and neck. Faramir looked at him sternly. "If this continues, your back will become stooped as you age. I can hardly walk but my back has not yet stooped."
"Yes father," Theoan replied automatically, then seemed to realize what his father had said and winced.
"I take up but a little space, you know, I think we could fit most of the family in here before we ran out of space," Faramir told him. "Though, perhaps, we would consign your brother by lay to the next room. He snores horribly. I cannot see how Eirien has not yet smothered him by stuffing a pillow up his nose. Help me sit up."
Theoan frowned but moved to do as his father bid. The lines on his face deepened in displeasure upon touching the elderly man. "You are cold."
Faramir chuckled a bit. "Yes, this past winter seems to have seeped into my bones. Age, my dear child, happens to the best of us."
"I wish it did not," Theoan said with surprising fervour. "I wish all of us were as blessed as the Elves."
"If we were, Theo, I fear we would soon run out of space," Faramir snorted. "Besides, Arda was only meant to hold so many Hurins at a time. We would drive all others mad as we do the guards in Emyn Arnen when we have family gatherings."
"It is simply unfair," Theoan groused.
"Ah, Theo, such is life," Faramir replied with a sad smile. "Now, shall you help me?"
"Of course," Theo replied.
"Good, grab my cloak and let us make use of that balcony. It has been some time since I watched the sunrise with my son," Faramir instructed.
"Father, you should not be out of bed..." Theoan said firmly but he already moved to retrieve the cloak and his father's footwear.
"Indulge an old man, Theo," Faramir told him with a smile. "Besides..."
"Please," Theoan said softly, interrupting. "Please do not say you shall not have many more opportunities to do so. Please, father, don't."
Faramir looked tenderly at his son, wishing he could seize him in his arms and hold him tight. "I do believe whenever one has the chance to enjoy a sunrise one should. There was a time, you know, when the sun did not rise as it should and since then... well, it is even more a pleasure to see it."
Theoan nodded stiffly, his shoulders hunched. He moved to help his father from the bed but Faramir opened his arms and pulled him as best he could against his chest. Theoan stiffened but in only a moment he threw his arms around his father and pressed his face into his shoulder.
"You are good to me, my Theo, and I love you very much," Faramir told him. "Do not fret so, all will be well in the end."
"Yes, papa," Theoan whispered, still clinging to his father. He held fast for a time then Faramir felt him wipe his eyes on his shoulder, trying to hide his tears, and he drew away. "You wanted to see the sunrise."
"And I still do," Faramir smiled. "Come, we have not missed it yet."
Theoan smiled very slightly and wrapped the warm cloak about his father, slipping the soft shoes onto his feet before gathering his father into his arms. Faramir knew without a doubt that Theoan would not let him walk even the distance to the balcony.
There were only stone benches for any other chairs were yet stored away because of the winter. Theoan frowned, not wanting his father to sit on the cold stone, already he shivered ever so slightly. He sat there himself but kept his father in his arms so he was seated more or less in his lap.
Faramir chuckled but said nothing, electing to lean further into the arms of his son. Theoan could not help but notice that his father's body seemed to have become even slighter since the journey here. He held him closer, as if to keep him anchored there.
A bird landed upon the white stone balcony and trilled a song. The sun rose. Minas Tirith began to come alive beneath them.
"Elboron will arrive soon," Theoan said softly.
"And will no doubt have been up for hours," Faramir said with a smile. "So you shall be able to break your fast. Do not think I have not heard your stomach grumbling."
"And do not think I have heard that yours has not been," Theoan countered, his expression concerned. "You do not eat enough."
"I think if you asked about you would find I never have," Faramir told him. "I will eat, Theo, do not fret so."
"You will eat this morning?" Theoan pressed.
"Yes, yes, Arwen will bring me breakfast and if I do not eat she will take it as an insult," Faramir sighed dramatically, earning a small chuckle from his son. "And that will mean Aragorn will hear of it."
"The King will?" Theoan repeated.
"Yes, in the past few months she has decided that any wrong I do is in truth his fault," Faramir told him. "I have not argued, he has gotten me into trouble enough times so I will enjoy the respite. It is no little thing to dodge the anger of Gondor's dear Queen."
"You are ridiculous," Theoan said fondly. He bent his head so it touched his father's and Faramir reached up to pat his cheek.
"Sometimes you need to be," Faramir told him. "Now, tell me, is that bakery still open on the fourth circle?"
"There are many bakeries on the fourth circle," Theoan replied.
"This one is rather special. It is located between two taverns which tend to be the favourites of many soldiers. It leaves stale bread in a basket on the door at night so as to help stave off hangovers by soaking up the alcohol, or so the wives' tale goes," Faramir elaborated.
"Yes, I have... heard of it," Theoan answered. Faramir snorted. "It makes excellent cinnamon buns. I think Halfoneth would live there if she could."
Faramir smiled, "Think you, you could fetch some of those buns today?"
Theoan frowned, "Father you hate cinnamon buns."
"Oh yes, I cannot understand why any would prefer them to toast and honey. Your wife, as you have said, is very fond of them," Faramir pointed out.
Theoan flushed, "If this is a plot to get more grandchildren..."
Faramir laughed, "You do not think I have enough? Indulge your wife and pick up extras for once Rohan's King smells them they shall be gone."
"Elfwine is here?" Theoan questioned.
"Yes, he arrived last night," Faramir replied.
Theoan did not dwell on his confusion, for he had not heard of the King's arrival, as Faramir began to shiver more. He stood and Faramir did not object. "It was a beautiful sunrise, father."
"Yes, most are," Faramir replied. "But they always appear better to me when they are enjoyed with another."
Theoan smiled and moved to settle his father back in bed. He paused when Faramir's palm brushed his cheek.
"You know how greatly I love you, Theo," Faramir said quietly.
"And I you, father," Theoan whispered. He wondered at how he could not know for it was plain to see in the wise grey eyes.
"Good," Faramir said, smiling.
Elboron, who had been watching the pair since they returned from the balcony through the keyhole, stood then and entered, carrying with him a tray. Theoan looked at and smiled at his brother.
Faramir groaned, eyeing the tray dubiously, "She becomes more elaborate with each passing day."
It was not the food that was the problem; it was the arrangement. Arwen had set up the dishes so they resembled a smiling face. Elboron chuckled.
"Yesterday it was a flower," Faramir told Theoan. "We need to find the Queen another hobby."
"Yes, well, eat despite the Queen's... inventive setup, father," Theoan pressed a kiss to his father's brow before rising. "And I shall see about those cinnamon buns."
Legolas arrived as Theoan left and laughingly rearranged the dishes before helping Faramir eat the better part of a bowl of porridge and drink a tea of Aragorn's devising. While Elboron busied himself with selecting his father's clothing for the day Legolas leaned closer and whispered, "When shall you wish to play truant this day?"
Elboron, of course, heard every word and smiled with his back turned to them. "In the evening, shortly before sunset."
Legolas nodded and helped him uncurl his hand from the drained teacup. Faramir soon after refused the rest of the food and Legolas left to speak to Aragorn.
Elboron aided his father with shaving. It was normally a morning activity but yesterday there had been the council to prepare for and after Aragorn had tended to his joints and fed him his foul tasting brews, Elboron brushed his hair and helped him dress.
"The chair by the fire, father?" Elboron asked as he plaited the single braid.
"Yes, for awhile," Faramir agreed. "Who is coming first?"
"Elfwine. He arrived last night and I was hauled from my bed to greet him," Elboron shook his head. "Unless it be in battle that man has no sense of timing."
Faramir laughed, "Your mother said the same of your uncle on a few rather memorable occasions."
Elfwine was a pleasant visitor and the family that filtered through after him was much welcome as well but Faramir tired early and before noon Elboron had tucked him into bed to doze. Theoan arrived and Eirien who busied herself by tiding the room in a near obsessive manner.
By the time Faramir woke and Legolas arrived with a tray from Arwen, which Faramir only nibbled at, Elfwine had returned to the room and convinced Theoan to show him where he purchased the excellent cinnamon buns he had snatched from Halfoneth early. He ate very little and spent time with his daughter before Aragorn came with Elboron to tend to him.
He did not leave the bed in the afternoon and Eirien stayed close by, ready to call for reinforcements if necessary, for Faramir seemed to be lagging. It was early in the afternoon that Eirien's eldest daughter and her husband came to see him, bringing with them Faramir's only great grandchild, a little girl of four years.
His granddaughter greeted him with a warm kiss and friendly words and her husband, a rather shy man, greeted him by his name, which was a rarity in itself, and kissed his brow, blushing all the while. They spoke for a time, his great-granddaughter staring wide eyed at him the whole time until she tugged upon her father's hair and demanded to be set down.
Nelladel was set upon the bed beside her great-grandfather, whom she adored, and sat looking at him with her thumb in her mouth. Her hair was plaited in pigtails, messy pigtails for she had been playing in the garden before her parents brought her to see her great grandpapa, and she wore a light-blue dress that was smudged with dirt and grass stains.
Here, Faramir thought, was all he had ever fought for.
"Hello there, bluebell," Faramir said quietly.
The golden haired child took her thumb from her mouth and crawled further up the bed, wrapping pudgy arms around Faramir's neck and nuzzling her cheek against his. Faramir chuckled, a clumsy hand coming up to touch the golden head.
"Well, you know what is important, don't you?" Faramir murmured.
The child pressed a sloppy kiss to the wrinkled cheek before scooting backwards to curl up against his side, delicate little hands curling in his soft tunic. Big blue eyes looked up at him curiously.
"Are you dying, grandpapa?" Nelladel asked in the no nonsense manner of a child, especially one of Rohirric blood.
Her mother gasped and her father swore under his breath and blushed fiercely but Faramir chuckled softly and brushed shaky fingers over her plump cheek. "Yes, bluebell, I am."
"I heard mama tell auntie so," Nelladel told him. "Do you have to die? Can't you stay longer?"
Faramir sighed softly, "That is not for me to decide. If I could I would stay and see you grow but soon it will be time for me to go."
"But why?" Nelladel questioned.
"I am rather old, child," Faramir replied. "And we all must make this journey, at one time or another."
"But...Won't you be lonely?" Nelladel's eyes welled with tears. "I don't want you to go alone..."
"Do not fret, child, I promise I will not be lonely. There are those who are waiting for me," Faramir told her gently.
"Who?" She demanded.
"Your great-grandmother and my brother," Faramir told her. The little girl's eyes narrowed, two people were not enough. Faramir hastily went on, "My friends, Mablung and Damrod, Eomer and the hobbits, I hope and..."
"Hobbits?" Nelladel sat up quickly, her interest piqued. Faramir had told her stories and the little girl had taken a particular interest to the wonderful, tiny, creatures. "Hobbits?"
Faramir chuckled, "Yes, bluebell, those little folk I have told you about. They have gone ahead of me."
"That's not so bad then," Nelladel decided. "It's like an adventure."
"Yes, I supposed it is," Faramir agreed. The little girl snuggled against him again and the blue eyes looked up at him a bit sadly.
"I'll miss you, grandpapa," She said quietly.
"And I you, bluebell," Faramir replied, tucking his arm around the small body. "But we shall see each other again."
"Soon?" Nelladel asked her thumb finding her way to her mouth again.
"No, not soon. You have many years to go before you are ready for this adventure." Faramir looked fondly at the child. "Shall you remember me when we do meet again?"
Nelladel gave him a cross look and nodded sternly. "Of course I will!"
Faramir chuckled, "Yes, I think perhaps you will, but it will be a long time."
"How could I forget you?" Nelladel wondered, hugging her great grandfather again. "I love you."
"Oh, you are a treasure," Faramir murmured. "And I have something for you."
"Really?" Nelladel smiled widely, one cheek dimpling. "What?"
"Eirien," Faramir called to his youngest, who was fiddling with a vase of flowers she had brought. "Would you please bring me the small blue package on the desk?"
"Of course, papa," Eirien replied, placing it before him. She could see his face paling and knew it would not be long before he needed to rest.
"This, bluebell, if my gift to you," Faramir smiled. "Go ahead, open it."
Nelladel looked briefly to her mother for confirmation and she nodded with a sad smile. She wrapped the blue fabric eagerly, withdrawing a simple but elegant pen that seemed very large in her small hands.
"It was mine," Faramir told her. "Think you shall find good use for it?"
Nelladel nodded, fingers running over the smooth, shiny wood. "I am learning my letters but I am going to save this. It is too pretty for that."
Faramir chuckled, "I am sure you will think of something."
His face paled and he winced suddenly. Eirien stood and he nodded to her. "I think, bluebell, I am going to have to say goodbye for now."
The girl looked up and a tear fell from her big blue eyes. "I am not going to see you again."
"Not for a long time," Faramir agreed. "Remember that I love you, Nelladel."
Nelladel nodded, sniffed and kissed his cheek again. Her father picked her up and she buried her head against his shoulder. Faramir's granddaughter bent over his grandfather for a moment, kissing his brow and stroking his cheek gently, her tears falling onto his face as she whispered farewells to him.
Eirien went to her father as they left, hardly noticing the slight commotion outside the door in her worry.
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.