2. Part 2
"Brother..." Elboron began in concern then he caught sight of his brother's face, pale and tear streaked, and his heart clenched in alarm. "Theo..."
Theoan pulled away, taking hasty steps back. When Elboron reached out to him he turned and began abruptly walking away. Elboron took a few steps forward and attempted to grab his arm. "Theo!"
He pulled away and, his light blue eyes meeting Elboron's for but a moment, and fled. Elboron started after him. "Theo!"
But Theoan had always been the faster of the two and quickly disappeared in the maze of hallways. Elboron's heart was heavy with dread and, as he had lost his brother, he hurried to his father's chamber.
Faramir lay curled on his side, his eyes closed, face drawn in pain. Eirien knelt beside him, stroking his face and whispering softly to him. Elboron went to him knelt beside him on the bed and, alarmed by the shortness of his breath, began rubbing his chest soothingly. It was his greatest fear for his father that he would pass in such a way, in pain and in panic. He looked at Aragorn with frightened eyes when the King entered.
"Hold him so I may examine him," Aragorn instructed.
Elboron nodded, and gently gathered his father into his arms, uncurling his shaking form. His eyes opened, pain and exhaustion reflected in the grey depths. He managed a tiny smile as Aragorn bent over him and pressed a tender hand to his forehead, even as he struggled to breath properly.
"It hurts, my friend," Aragorn murmured, his other hand touching Faramir's chest gently. "Here as well?"
Faramir managed a small nod and Aragorn withdrew. Faramir wilted back into his son's arms and Elboron kissed his father's hair, resting his cheek against the snowy locks. Faramir was gasping softly.
Aragorn turned to the mixtures and herbs he had brought, fiddling with them for a few moments, before pressing the lip of a cup to Faramir's pale lips. Faramir drank without question. He grimaced at the taste but his breathing eased even as Aragorn pulled the cup away and set it down, fiddling again with his mixtures.
Faramir turned his head so his cheek rested against his son's chest and closed his eyes, concentrating on breathing. Elboron stroked his hair gently, calming his father as much as himself. He felt Eirien's thumb running over the back of his hand gently.
"This will help further," Aragorn told him, putting another liquid to his lips. He drank and felt his body, tensed with panic, relax.
"That was..." Faramir murmured, still feeling shaky. "...very unpleasent..."
Aragorn placed a hand on Faramir's forehead and his Steward opened his eyes. "I do not think your recovery was as full as it seemed, Faramir."
Faramir sighed, "It matters little..."
Elboron made a distressed snorting noise and Eirien gave a soft sob. Aragorn placed a hand on either of Faramir's cheeks, his expression sad. "It matters, my Steward, because none of us wish you to die in pain such as that."
"Theo could not bear it," Elboron murmured quietly. "Nor could I but... I think he understands now..."
"Oh dear," Faramir murmured then his face creased and he seemed to sink back against his son. "Oh..."
"They are powerful medicines, Faramir, let them do their work," Aragorn instructed. "You should rest awhile."
"Theo..." Faramir murmured. "I..."
Aragorn and Elboron exchanged a look. Elboron sighed but nodded to his King. "I will go after him, father."
"And I will stay with you," Aragorn told him. "And see if there is not more I can do to aid you."
Faramir nodded slightly, he was having trouble keeping his eyes open. "Yes but... wake me before sunset I wish to..."
"Father you should not go out," Eirien told him. She turned to the King and her brother. "You cannot let him, not like this."
"I want to see the White Tree again," Faramir whispered. "I know...I know it has not flowered but..."
Aragorn's face softened in tender sorrow and he touched his cheek gently. "As you wish, Faramir, but rest now, rest."
Neither of Faramir's children looked particularly happy with him but they waited until their father had faded to sleep before questioning him. The last thing they wished to do was distress Faramir.
"My King I know what it means to my father to still be able to spend time outside but surely he cannot now," Elboron began, holding his father protectively. "He..."
"He is only going to worsen, Elboron," Aragorn said sadly. "This will be his last chance and I cannot deny this request of him."
"But what if something should happen?" Eirien demanded. "He could hardly breathe!"
"Then I will be there and there shall be aid nearby even though I doubt he will fully realize it. It would be no worse if he was here." His face softened then. "I will not deny him this for I realize how very much it means to him."
Elboron sighed and Eirien swore. Neither could deny their father anything but it did not stop them from worrying for him.
They settled Faramir against the soft pillows. Aragorn put a hand to his forehead and sighed. Elboron looked at him. "How long?"
"Days, if that," Aragorn shook his head.
Elboron nodded stiffly and departed to search for his brother. Eirien stayed, pacing, as Aragorn rubbed a salve onto his joints and another onto his chest to ease his breathing before cocooning him in warm blankets. Morwen arrived and was as happy as her siblings about her father's plans to venture out. She and Eirien strayed to the balcony to speak in hushed tones. Aragorn sat and stared into the dying fire, attuned to Faramir's breathing in such a way he would know if it hitched in the slightest.
Elboron had not returned when Aragorn woke Faramir, bundled him up and lifted him carefully into his arms. He did not protest; Aragorn would not have let him walk even had he been strong enough to attempt it. He rested his head on Aragorn's shoulder and closed his eyes until he felt the fading sunlight upon his face.
They settled on a stone bench and for a time simply watched the branches dancing in the wind. Both could see the tiny buds nestled among the leaves but not a flower upon the tree yet blossomed.
"I remember when we first sat thusly," Aragorn chucked. "You could not walk unaided then either."
"That is what happens when a building falls atop you," Faramir replied, he did not move his gaze from the tree. "It is ever a beautiful sight to me."
"As it is to me," Aragorn replied. "I never thought to be the one to bring it about."
Faramir smiled, "I could think of no better person."
Aragorn looked closely at his dear friend. "May I ask you a question, brother?"
"Of course," Faramir replied.
"How long have you been planning this?" Aragorn asked.
Faramir did not answer for a few moments. "It was not planning, I do not think, but I have known, vaguely and sometimes very clearly, what was to come for years now."
Aragorn raised an eyebrow. "How long, exactly?"
"Oh..." Faramir thought for a moment, unable to find the date. "Before my one hundred and tenth birthday I had some idea. I had a rather vivid dream."
"May I inquire what it was you dreamed?" Aragorn questioned.
"I dreamt of my father," Faramir told him, surprising his friend. "I do not remember most but I recall his presence strongly and know I woke without ill feeling. It was not one of the nightmares of him that had plagued me before."
"Nor," he added, "Has one visited me since that day. Perhaps he counseled me upon the matter, I know not for sure, but I woke knowing it was time for Elboron to take office. He was ready for it and I was ready to let it go," Faramir was silent for a moment. "I have never regretted my decision."
"I have dreamt often since then, as I had not for some time and differently than I once did. I rarely remember what it is I have dreamt fully but often I know, from moment to moment, what will happen next and know, as it does, that things are as they should be," Faramir looked distant. "At times, since Eowyn passed, I have not felt I am fully here, but half gone already."
"I know I will die soon and I know," Faramir said, looking at Aragorn rather pointedly, "that I shall not venture from my room after this night while my soul still lingers in this land. You, however, most likely have a better idea of exactly when it is I will make this final journey and I find that I do not wish to know when that is."
"Then I will say nothing more than soon," Aragorn told him.
"Now I have a question for you," Faramir said. "How came you to the conclusion I had planned this?"
"Ithilien," Aragorn answered.
Faramir raised an eyebrow, "That is even vaguer than my dreams."
Aragorn chuckled, "Two years ago, when Arwen dragged me from my sleep one night and all but threw me on a horse and we rode to Henneth Annun on what seemed a whim I began to think you knew something I did not."
Faramir laughed, "Ah, yes, I can see that."
"Then in Cair Andros Elboron caught up with us you told him he was on time and you decided we should walk to Henneth Annun as you use to as a Ranger," Aragorn groused. "And since... I have known there was a strangeness about you, if, as you said, you were not entirely with us at times."
"Often, and more so since the winter, I have felt them near me, those I have loved that have gone on and I see them often in my dreams," Faramir told him.
"Legolas and Arwen know, do they not?" Aragorn asked.
"Yes, though I have never discussed it with Arwen and only briefly with Legolas," Faramir told him. "They have sensed it strongly of me as well, I believe."
The sun began to set then and they paused in their speech to watch it as it sunk below their sight. The White Tree seemed to glow in the fading light and became a beautiful but ghostly silver shade in the moon light.
"I would have you do me a favour," Faramir said slowly after a time. "Though it may not be prudent to ask?"
Aragorn laughed softly, "That has not stopped be before and you know well there is little I would deny you."
"When the White Tree blooms bring me a blossom, I only ask for one but I wish to see it," Faramir requested quietly.
Aragorn said nothing but smiled softly and bent to press a kiss to Faramir's brow. "I will miss you, my beloved friend, when you pass from our arms to those gone before us. But I think I am to tarry here for a short while longer ere I join you."
"Yes," Faramir told him with a soft smile. "You will remain awhile."
Faramir was near sleeping when Aragorn carried him back to his rooms. Elboron had returned without having found his brother. Eirien paced still and Legolas was perched upon a table instead of using a chair to sit, a tray of cold food beside him.
"You could not find him?" Faramir asked as he was tucked into bed. He had not changed again after he dozed near to noon.
Elboron sighed. "I am sorry, father."
"Nay, Theo will not be found if he does not wish to be," Faramir said. "He will come soon, though and..." Here he hesitated. "I think it would be best if none but me were here when he came."
That produced disagreement from every corner of the room save one. All talked at once in protest and Faramir heaved a sigh.
"I shall stay," Legolas piped in suddenly. They all looked at him. "I can hide myself and slip away easily enough when Theoan comes and Faramir will not be alone til he does."
Faramir smiled, "Yes. That would work."
No one else was particularly happy but agreed, eventually, and Faramir was left alone with his Elven friend. Legolas moved from where he sat and came to perch upon the headboard of Faramir's vast bed.
He looked down at Faramir with knowing blue eyes. "You still refuse a sleeping aid."
"Theo will wish to speak to me tonight and I would be awake when he arrives," Faramir replied.
"Yes, he is most upset," Legolas nodded. "We all are, though. You have been a very great friend to me. I never thought to make friends with mortals as I have."
"It must be a painful thing," Faramir agreed. His eyes felt heavy with sleep but he pushed it away. "Do you regret doing so?"
"Nay, not for a moment, though I sometimes feel my heart will break when I feel them slipping away from me as you have been," Legolas told him. "But there is comfort in remained also, for one day I will cross the seas and will bring with me songs of you, and of your brothers, both blood and otherwise, and of all the wonderful things I have seen in this world of mortals."
Legolas smiled slightly, and looked down, "And I will tell your stories and those of all I have loved and teach them to others, so the songs are remembered always and so you shall not die and you memory turn to ash with the passage of years, but be ever spoken upon the shores of my kin."
Faramir did not know what to say to such a thing.
"Yet it pains me to know soon I shall not see your face again, unless it be in my memories" Legolas said quietly. "For you and I shall travel diverging paths from the time you take your leave for evermore."
Faramir smiled gently, for his eloquence returned, "For a time, yes, but when the last note is sung I think, perhaps, all paths will meet again."
Legolas thought on it, then smiled brilliantly. "Yes, perhaps and I have hope it is so. I think it something of a cruelty to keep such friends as I have found apart for longer than there are days."
He reached down then and touched the white hair with smooth porcelain fingers and trailed them gently across Faramir's face, as if memorizing him. "Sleep, you are very weary. I will wake you when your son is coming."
"Thank you, my friend," Faramir said.
Legolas smiled. "And you have my thanks, mellon nin."
Then he began to sing softly and his hand moved across Faramir's forehead soothingly. Faramir felt as if his eyelids were heavier than all of Arda and quickly fell into a sleep that felt very deep and ever long.
He felt refreshed when Legolas woke him, his pale skin glowing faintly in the darkness and his blue eyes bright. "Theoan is coming. I shall light a candle so you shall be able to see him and depart once he arrives."
Faramir had not the chance to answer before Legolas seemed to melt into the shadows and Faramir heard not a sound save for the lightening of a single candle near the bed which seemed to happen out of thin air. Again, utter stillness, before the faint sound of shuffling footsteps came close to the room and the door open with the slightest of creaks.
Theoan entered the room nearly silently, not noticing his father was not sleeping until the beloved voice called to him, "Theo..."
Theoan made a choked sound and went quickly to his father's bedside. His face was pale and drawn, his eyes red from his tears. He knelt by the bed and bowed his head, shoulders heaving.
"Do not leave us," he begged. "Please, do not die."
"Ah, my Theo, would that I had a choice in the matter," Faramir smiled sadly at him. "It is my time, child, and in truth I am ever weary now. This is not a sadness, Theo, I have lived a long full life and have had so many great joys, more than enough to match my sorrows. This...This is as it should be."
"Please, father...I cannot..." Theoan's voice choked again and his words halted.
"Oh dear child," Faramir whispered, his heart aching. "Come here."
Theoan crawled onto the bed and laid next to his father, enfolding the diminished frame in his arms and weeping. Faramir stroked his son's hair with his whole hand and kissed his forehead, letting him cry out his grief.
"Theo, my son," Faramir whispered, when the storm seemed to have passed. "This is the gift of men. None can escape it; do not ask it of me to try. I have been upon Arda for many years and now I feel them and grow tired. Do not begrudge me my rest."
"I do not know what I shall do when you are gone," Theoan whispered. "Whom shall I turn to for counsel? Father, I need you still!"
"No, Theo, you do not and have not for years," Faramir told him, his tone bittersweet. "You are a good, strong man Theo, when I pass you will grieve, yes, but there are many loves in your life to heal your heart. You will live long and happy upon and watch the waves lap upon your shores. You will see your children grow and love them and be proud. Oh Theo, I am but one person in your heart, there are many others who still remain."
"I shall miss you," Theoan said shakily.
"I should be offended if you do not," Faramir said, earning a soft, tearful laugh. "We part but for a little while, child, and when you too feel the weight of all your years we shall embrace again."
"Would I that we did not part at all," Theoan murmured.
"But that would mean you would depart with me now, for I cannot tarry much longer, and I would not have you leave so soon," Faramir told him. "Parent before child, beloved, that is the way it should always be and none should feel the pain of the reverse."
Theoan was silent for a long time. Faramir closed his eyes and savoured the feel of having his child so close. He could feel the warmth of his breath and his tears upon his neck and the strength of the arms that returned the embrace. A faint sent of sea salt still clung to him, for Theoan had lived by the sea for many years now, and breathed it in gladly. Oh, he remembered when this grown man was but a new babe cradled in his arms!
"I am sorry, father," Theoan murmured and Faramir felt his lips against his neck at his words, such was his closeness. "I am sorry I did not see."
"You were not ready to and that is fine, we all must be given our own time with such things," Faramir told him then chuckled just slightly. "It has added to the fun, for I must confess I have been sneaking out of this room behind your back."
"Father!" Theoan's tone was faintly scandalized but then he too laughed. "I am glad you did, if it gave you joy."
"Too many days a bed is stifling, so, yes, it did," Faramir told him. "And it gave my four children a chance to not have to care for me, if only for a little while."
"Father, none of us wish to do anything else," Theoan told him. "We love you, I love you so."
"Ah, Theo, no one ever wishes to be a burden," Faramir said quietly.
"You could never be such a thing," Theoan told him. "If you asked it of me I would spend the rest of my days caring for you but...but...Father, how...how long?"
"For that answer you shall have to ask the King," Faramir sighed. "All I know is that it will be soon that I part from you."
Theoan was silent for a moment; then he moved and kissed his father upon the cheek and brow before shifting so he was near cradling Faramir close, instead of near crushing him close. "I do not wish to leave your side again ere you go."
Faramir sighed softly, tilted his head up and kissed his son's chin, for it was all he could reach. "Nor would I have you leave me now."
"Good," Theoan murmured and Faramir felt his son's cheek rest upon his hair and felt a kiss pressed against his skin and let himself fall asleep again, his heart at peace.
Theoan woke suddenly hours before dawn, at first unable to figure out why it was he woke. He sat up slowly. "Father?"
Faramir's eyes were closed. His face was pinched with pain and his breath came in short gasps. His eyes moved frantically behind tightly closed lids as if he was trying to wake and could not manage it.
"Father, father, wake!" Theoan pleaded. Faramir made a gasped moaning noise and his eyes fluttered but did not open. Theoan could feel his heart beating far too fast beneath his palm.
"No, no, no," Theoan murmured, panicking, "Not like this, not like this..."
He could not think what to do to aid his father so he yelled for help. Elboron, who had come to peek into the room and make sure all was well, raced inside when he heard his brother's cry. He took in the scene, his father barely able to breath and his brother panicking, and felt the same fear as Theoan.
He grasped his younger brother by the shoulders, "Go, run and fetch the King. He can help father."
Theoan nodded, fear in his eyes, and left the room at a dead run. Elboron lifted his father gently into his arms and rubbed his chest, trying, at least, to calm him.
"Breathe, father," he murmured, not entirely sure Faramir could hear him. "Breathe for me, father, please. Breathe."
The King arrived in naught but his robe and sleep pants, bringing with him elixirs he had brewed before retiring. Elboron moved back to give his King the space he needed.
Theoan stood shaking next to the bed. Elboron quickly moved to his side and crushed him into his arms. Theoan clutched at him. Elboron shed tears against his light hair as Theoan let loose his sobs upon his brother's shoulder.
Aragorn tipped a brew past Faramir's lips without hesitation, for they were beginning to appear to be tinged with blue, and stroked his throat to help him swallow. His breathing hitched and, after long moments, began to ease. The crisis passed and Faramir stilled, falling back into deep slumber.
"Is he...Will he...?" Theoan managed, still held tight against his brother.
Aragorn appeared not to hear and leaned forward to place a hand upon Faramir's brow. He seemed to withdraw from them for moments. The brothers could do naught but wait for him to return.
He did shortly, sighing softly, and looked at them, "He will wake again but now when I say soon, I say he will depart from us in as little as hours and not more than days."
Elboron made a choked sound and rested his face in Theoan's hair, his breath's expression one of horror. Aragorn kept a gentle hand upon Faramir's chest.
"Theoan, I know you do not wish to leave but a very few things must be done," Aragorn said quietly.
Theoan looked reluctant but, as Aragorn expected, he would do what his King asked. He nodded slowly, only pulling away from his brother in the slightest. "What would you ask of me?"
"Fetch your sisters and my wife. Tell her to bring with her what I shall need," Aragorn instructed. "And alert Legolas. Tell him simply that it is time and he will do the rest."
Theoan nodded stiffly. He looked at his elder brother and for a moment the two embraced again, holding each other hard. Theoan hurried off. Elboron looked to the King.
"It will settle him to do this small task," Aragorn explained.
Elboron nodded and sat on the bed, his hand brushing his father's cheek gently. He looked at the King, "What can I do?"
Aragorn sighed and shook his head. "Very little. He is deeply in dreams, so far I doubt very much he is aware of our presence."
"I will not leave his side again ere the end," Elboron said, his grey eyes hard with resolve.
"Nor shall I for but a moment longer than I may have to," Aragorn agreed, he touched Faramir's hair gently. "I can ease his breathing and his pain but that will do little to keep him with us and I have sworn to him I will do naught else but that, for he wants not a life prolonged to drift in half sleep and simply waste away."
"I know," Elboron replied, "and I would not have it for him but I would have him go peacefully. We discussed it little but I know enough that..."
Elboron trailed off, his voice choking up. Aragorn looked sadly at him. "We too, discussed such things. If needs be I will give him a peaceful end but I do not think it is needed by my hand. Were he to live much longer, yes, perhaps, but he is all but spent now and fading fast. He needs not my aid in that."
Elboron nodded, unable to speak for want of proper words, and lay beside his father, curling around his fragile body as if to protect him. Faramir did not stir then, nor did he when his children and dearest friends arrived and took up their posts about the room, waiting for him to wake and waiting for the end to come.
For the day he slept and drifted, walking only slightly and never for long. He ate nothing, only keeping down Aragorn's brews and a few swallows of water. They rarely left and his two sons did not at all.
Shortly after darkness fell he awoke for a few moments. Aragorn had only just arrived again, coming back from gathering herbs he needed from the stores at the Houses. Theoan sat half reclined beside him, his hand upon his father's forehead.
Faramir looked to his King, "Do they bloom?"
Aragorn shook his head, "No, friend, they do not."
"I did not think so," Faramir said very softly. He looked up at his son and smiled faintly. Theoan's fingers trailed across his brow gently and he forced a smile in return.
Faramir's head lolled in the direction of the King again. "Would you bring me the book... it has a dark green cover...and is, I believe, on my desk..."
Aragorn made to move but Legolas was already there, handing the book to Theoan who frowned. "Father?"
"Open it to the marked page..." Faramir instructed. Theoan frowned but did. No one else in the room moved.
"Count five pages more...hold all five between your fingers...front and back are one, yes..." Faramir instructed. Aragorn could tell he was fading back to his slumber but desperate to keep awake for moments more.
Theoan held the pages of the old book there and waited. Faramir grinned. "Now tear them out."
"Father!" Theoan exclaimed, shocked. It sounded absurd, Faramir, nearly above all, respected the pages of books.
"I have not taken leave... of my senses..." Faramir assured him. "I find it amusing that... one day someone will wonder... where those pages went and never suppose... a Steward of Gondor relieved the bindings of them... Tear them out!"
With shaking fingers and a nervous glance around the room, Theoan did, near flinching at the ripping sound. He held them tightly between his fingers. Faramir's palm brushed his wrist and guided it down and to his lips.
He kissed the fingers that held the pages. He smiled dimly, fading away again, "Treasure it..."
Theoan was trembling and he nearly did not dare to read the pages but he could hardly not. His eyes drank in the words and he gave a soft cry, his hand covering his mouth. Elboron hurried to his side even as Theoan clutched the papers to his chest.
"Theo," Elboron whispered, concerned. "What is it?"
Theoan shook his head jerkily, holding the papers tighter against him. Elboron frowned, placing his hands on his brother's shoulders as the shaking ceased and looked at Legolas. The Elf too, shook his head.
Faramir slept through the night, roused slightly by coughing fits several times. Aragorn soothed him and he slept again, his face paler in the dim light and his family near thrumming with tension.
He woke when the sun was over halfway through the sky, with Morwen laying to his right, holding gently his hand, her thumb moving in slow circles on the inside of his wrist, and Legolas perched upon the headboard to his left. There was but a hint of colour in his wan cheeks.
Legolas' fingers dangled down to drift lightly through his hair. The Elf smiled. "I shall fetch some food."
He and Arwen departed without another word, to the bemusement of those remaining. Elboron moved forward to kneel beside his father's bed, putting his hand upon his father's and looking at him questioningly.
"I feel stuffy, being abed so long," Faramir smiled at his son. "I wonder if I might be allowed by my guardians to bathe?"
Elboron blinked, the request a surprise. He looked at Aragorn who shrugged. "It would do no harm, if he were kept warm, and in fact may do some good."
In apartments of privilege, as in the ones where Faramir lay, the bathing chamber was adjoined to the bedroom. Hot water was called for, and Aragorn mixed the water with herbs that would help ease the tightness of Faramir's chest. Elboron carried his father into the chamber alone, affording him some privacy.
He washed his father's increasingly frail body with tender care. Faramir was relaxed in his steady hands, so much so Elboron nearly thought he had fallen asleep. He helped Faramir sit enough to wash his hair and supported him beneath his shoulders as he rinsed the white locks with a nearby jug that had been used to fill the bath.
Upon leaving the warm water Elboron wrapped his father in soft towels, drying him carefully before dressing him again in his sleep clothes and also a warm robe. Propping his father up against his knees he dried and combed the white hair. It felt soft against his nimble fingers as he wove in the braid, for he knew his father would not wish to be without it.
Eirien had changed the sheets as Faramir bathed and Morwen had opened the drapes to let sunlight spill across the floor. Aragorn was bent over the table mixing some brew when Elboron carried Faramir to the bed again and tucked him beneath the warm covers, propping him up with pillows so he could be in a seated position.
They ate, Faramir too, but very little. A few sips of broth, a quarter of a slice of thinly honeyed bread and another of Aragorn's brews. Morwen took up the book and read, turning the last few pages. The sun set. Faramir slept.
He woke after mid night, alert, his eyes sharp. Legolas nudged Aragorn, who bent close to hear his words, his voice gaining strength as he spoke.
"I would have a few minutes alone with each of you," he requested, catching and holding his King's solemn eyes.
It took the better part of an hour and when Morwen returned from her visit, seeking comfort in the welcoming arms of her sister and Arwen, Elboron went in, knowing his father would be very weary, as he was the last.
He stood by the bed and Faramir looked upon him and felt his heart would near burst with pride. Once this great man had been but a whip thin child with scrapped knees and a mop of uncombed hair and he had become all Faramir had ever wished for him. He was strong and noble and, most important of all, he had found great joy and lived with all his being.
Elboron knelt by the bed and looked upon his father, seeing his old, kind face, but also the faces of younger days, when Faramir was alive with vigour and knowledge. He could not love the old man more, and knew the memory of his father would be close to his heart for all his days.
Elboron stood and sat on the bed, gathering his father into his arms and holding him close. Faramir closed his eyes and sighed. "You will look after them?"
"Yes, father, though I shall never be as you have been," Elboron said quietly.
Faramir smiled faintly, "Nor would I wish you to be. You are your own man and you are a good man. You make me so very proud."
Elboron flushed slightly at the praise and ducked his head. Grey eyes opened and looked upon him with great love.
Faramir smiled gently at him and reached up a hand to rest upon his cheek. "I love you, Boro."
Elboron turned his face into the hand and kissed the palm gently. "And I love you, papa."
But a moment passed and Faramir's eyes slid past his son's face and became distant. Elboron's heart clenched within his chest. "Father?"
The grey eyes sharpened once more and focused on his son. His face was peaceful, a great grin breaking across it even as tears spilt from the corners of his old eyes. He could not find the words...
"You see them?" Elboron whispered, holding his father's hand tightly in his own.
Faramir could only nod but Elboron understood. He too smiled and found tears spilling down his face as he bent to kiss his father's brow with trembling lips.
He laughed shakily suddenly and kissed his father again, his hand petting the white locks with a trembling hand. "They wait for you. I shall see you again when, in years hence, you come for me. Go to them."
Faramir's eyes fluttered and closed, his body relaxing with a sigh into a sleep from which he would not wake. Elboron held him fast, and closed his eyes, smelling the freshness of his clean hair and the musk of his skin and feeling the strength that once held in his dying body. This was his father.
He did not know when the others returned to the room but became aware of Theoan slipping onto the bed next to him, sitting so close their bodies touched and he could rest his head on his elder brother's shoulder while stroking his father's hair. Morwen sat across, her hand upon Faramir's, which lay unplaced against his stomach. Eirien was beside her, her arms about her elder sister's shoulders, her forehead resting against her neck.
Aragorn, Legolas and Arwen watched close by but did not intrude, giving the children their father. Elboron met the King's eyes briefly.
"He knows we are with him," Elboron said with certainty.
Aragorn only nodded.
Hours passed and Faramir's breathing slowed to a mere whisper. Elboron felt it struggle and fade slowly against his chest.
The sun rose. And so passed Faramir, son of Denethor, twenty seventh Steward of Gondor.
Aragorn departed soon after to relay the news of the death of one of the finest men Gondor had ever seen. Legolas went with him. Arwen saw the tell the news to the rest of his family and the children attended their father now in death, unwilling to relinquish him, they themselves prepared him to lay in state.
The city would soon hear of his death and be in mourning. Faramir was theirs alone for only a short time more. Soon he would be given to them, to Gondor, to history.
Aragorn made to stride quickly about, for he wished to deliver this news quickly and then look upon his own daughters and son, whom he loved, and whom he wished were near him. His course strayed, though he felt as if it had not of his own making, and he found himself walking into the courtyard, Legolas coming behind with soundless steps.
The morning's light was bright, no cloudy day was this, and the city hurried to life beneath them. Even at this high point, with the sixth circle nearest to them, Aragorn fancied he could hear the hustle of his city below, the clang of pans in bakeries and the shooting of men loading wagons and the calling of mothers for their households to wake. He smiled and looked upon the white tree and threw his head back and laughed.
The White Tree was a riot of flowers.
And here was Faramir, in the aliveness of the city he had loved and nearly died to protect, his life and spirit in the people whom he had not know but loved, in the stones of the city itself for he had been responsible for it as much as Aragorn had. Here, a part of him would remain for ever after, in the shouts of bakers and soldiers drinking ale and mothers calling to their children without fear, in a time of peace. No man could have greater a legacy.
And here Aragorn turned to Legolas and smiled at him. "Have you a sharp swift knife?"
They came to the Hallows early for Faramir had been laid out in state without fuss or fanfare, as would have been his wish, and with his children standing by. He looked a bit as if they had argued over what to attire him in for he was not dressed fully as a soldier in armour nor as a diplomat in robes but a mixture of both. His children and grandchildren and great-grandchild dressed in mourning black save for the velvet blue and silver stars upon the cloak of Elboron's wife.
Aragorn wore none of the garments that named him King yet nor his crown. The King mourned his Steward but he came not to do so yet, Aragorn mourned and celebrated his friend and brother Faramir in his stead. Later would come the time for such ceremony.
"I hope you will forgive the indulgence, my friend," Aragorn murmured, "but, if you will forgive also the borrowed phrase, it feels it is as it should be."
He lifted Faramir's hand off the hilt of his sword and laid beneath it a sprig cut from the White Tree, leaves rustling softly against the fabric of his tunic, a cluster of blossoms upon his breast. Aragorn bent to touch his lips to the still hand he held before laying it down once more.
And so in years hence when people looked upon the fair face of Faramir at his final, peaceful rest, they would see a man dressed in both the garb of a soldier and a scholar with a single braid in his full hair and who held steady both a sword and a flowering branch of the white tree. They would see a man entombed with a smile upon his face.
He had tarried here longer than he had supposed. Long enough to see his friends of mortal blood fade to time's wind and see the grief of lost love overcome one of Elven blood, long enough to see many of their children pass. Long enough to see his father sail across the seas, and know he would met him upon Valinor's shores, and see what was once Mirkwood lay empty of his people. Long enough to be asked if he had room for two more passengers in the forms of Elrond's twin sons, who tarried as long as he with heavy hearts, and long enough to convince a dwarf to sail beside him.
But now he tarried no longer, had always known, perhaps, that this day would be the day he set out for home since he had left Mirkwood bearing a message all those years ago. Perhaps he had known for longer, he could not tell.
The shores of Middle Earth were left behind, the wind picking up his sails. Upon the beach he saw a figure upon horse back waving farewell to the ship, her long blonde hair, thoroughly streaked by white, escaping its fastenings and whipping about her even as her grandchildren caught up. She tossed her head back and appeared to laugh, most likely informing them that the day she ceased to chase the wind upon her horse was the day she lay down to die. He found it painful, at times, how similiar she was to her great-grandmother.
The sea wind caught up his own hair in its hold and he smiled at the salty tang of it upon his lips, his heart made whole again by its song. He could hear his dearest friend as he trod nosily about the ship on short legs, inspecting every inch and grumbling in his gruff manner. He could see two dark heads close to each other, brothers leaning close in conference, looking not behind but forward, as if their eyes could spot already the peaceful shores.
Legolas looked down upon the book he held, leather covering it, a tree etched upon its front. It smelled new, as it was. With hands porcelain smooth hands he opened it.
The History of the House of Hurin
Stewards of Gondor
Faramir, son of Denethor, twenty-seventh Steward of Gonder
Nelladel, his bluebell
Author's Notes: For some reason or another this story struck me, demanded to be written and proceeded to be written until the words simply stopped coming. I don't think I've ever had quite the same experience with anything before. Feedback is, as always, wanted desperately. This is a semi-sequel to 'Blossoms' and references several fics out there. It was heavily inspired by Sue's 'Transition'.
The names I used and the explanation behind them. Nelladel means the ringing of bells and was chosen after Faramir used the nickname bluebell for the little girl. I had no control over that, it simply happened. Eirien means daisy and is a tribute to the wonderful David "Daisy" Wenhen. What I want to know is how he got that nickname, though I've now heard it's a common nickname for Aussies named David! Evendim has also used it and I tip my hat to her but had to pay hommage to dear Daisy somehow so I did too. Halfoneth means giver of seashells which I found very enchanting for some reason.
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.