3. Adventure and Danger
As promised, Beregond and Faramir did indeed meet again after Gandalf's departure, and also the next day and the day after. In fact, they met almost every day, sometimes to play, sometimes for Faramir to teach Beregond the Elven-Tongue; and when Faramir also started training at the barracks, Beregond assisted him in his sword lessons. Soon enough, the two became dear friends and delight in each other's company, and finally came a time when neither of them did anything or went anywhere without the other following.
As the time passed, however, Beregond felt something was disturbing Faramir, and he suspected that Lord Denethor had something to do with it. Beregond often overheard servants saying how harsh the Steward could be at Faramir. On the other hand, he noticed how Faramir wanted to talk about his father less and less and, when he did, the tone he used had a strange tinge of bitterness in it. Beregond wanted to believe that this was just a phase that would soon pass, yet he came to realise that this wasn't the case at all. He was horrified to listen to Faramir saying once that he didn't want to continue his lessons with Mirthrandir, because he didn't want to be a "wizard's pupil" anymore, and it was to Beregond's relief that Gandalf managed to convince his friend not to give up the lessons just yet.
Still matters didn't improve much, however. So it wasn't long before the Steward's feelings toward Faramir chilled, whereas Faramir was left craving for his father's love.
Three years passed, and Beregond would soon finish his training to become a squire, a position that all trainees had to take up in order to become soldiers upon their coming of age. As for Faramir, he had by then not only mastered his skill with the sword, but also learned to use the bow and arrow; and his lessons with Mithrandir were reaching to their own end.
In early autumn, the first news of turmoil broke out. Orcs were seen prowling in Ithilien, defiling the place with their presence, and some of them were spotted as far inland as Osgiliath. The Gondorian Knights, by orders of Lord Denethor and under the command of Thorongil, a man who had offered his services to Minas Tirith through time, made preparations to set out and drive the Enemy off. Beregond's brother would go as well, being a squire already, something that Beregond loathed, for he didn't wish to see Iorlas leave. He was also certain that Faramir was feeling the same way, since Boromir would go and fight as well. How else could he explain his friend's growing restlessness and distraction, as the day the army would depart for war drew nearer?
But Beregond was about to discover that nothing could be further from the truth. On the day before the army would set out and at the end of their training lessons, Faramir passed by Beregond and slipped something into his hand. Beregond looked down curiously to see what he was holding, to see a piece of parchment written hastily in the Elven-Tongue:
"Le darthathon na Geleborn na dhu. Avo pedo an pen."*
Beregond meant to ask what was the meaning of this, but Faramir was already gone; so there was not much of a choice for him except do what the note asked. He only hoped that neither his mother nor his brother would notice him slipping out of the house at night.
When the sky was filled with stars, Beregond got out of his house and hurried down the narrow dark streets, feeling his heart beating fast against his chest. It wasn't long before he finally reached the great dead Silver Tree his friend had talked about in his note, but Faramir was nowhere to be seen. Sighing a bit and seeing that there was no option left in him, Beregond rested his back at the withered trunk and waited. After several moments, Faramir finally appeared, seeming nervous and his eyes darting at his surroundings worriedly.
"You were not followed, were you?" Faramir asked Beregond after relaxing his vigilance.
"I didn't know I had to be that careful," answered Beregond, "But no, I don't think anybody did." An uncomfortable silence filled the air, and Beregond was starting to get impatient. "Will you tell me what happened? Why did you desperately want to talk to me in the dead of night at this place?"
"Tomorrow the knights are leaving for Ithilien," said Faramir
Beregond glared at his friend in annoyance. "Yes, thank you, I am well aware of that. In fact, it so happens that my brother's among them. So, if it is fine by you, I would like to go back to bed; I wish to wake up at dawn and say goodbye to him without having to yawn every few moments," he said, feeling himself flaring. He immediately turned to walk away before he said anything that he would regret.
"I plan to follow them."
All feelings of anger vanished into thin air. Beregond stopped on his tracks and faced Faramir, stunned.
"You can't be serious!" he faltered.
"But I am," said Faramir simply. "I want to go to Ithilien, just like Boromir."
"Boromir has come of age!"
"Your brother has not."
"Not as a soldier, no; but he's a squire!"
"I am not going as a soldier either, or to fight for that matter. I just want to see the battle."
Beregond gaped at Faramir, unable to believe what he was hearing. He tried to talk his friend out of his intention. He acknowledged Faramir's skill with weapons, but he reasoned that that would not be enough against the dangers he would have face once leaving the city. Even if Faramir survived, there was the wrath of his father and the penalty for disobeying the city's laws to consider. If he wanted so badly to see a battle, he could stay his heart and wait a few years, when he could go with everyone's blessing. What he was about to do now was folly and he shouldn't even consider it!
Faramir shook his head. "Father will never let me go, even if I am old enough according to the city's laws; he thinks I am only a wizard's pupil. It is time for me to prove him otherwise and show him how wrong he is about me. I was only hoping that you, of all people, would understand this," he said bitterly.
"Understand what? That you regard war as sightseeing?" Beregond exclaimed. Valar help him, but if there was ever a time that he wished to beat some sense into Faramir, it was there and then.
"That I am just as brave as Boromir."
"Yes, of course," Beregond said, sarcasm dripping in his every word. "Go and get yourself killed; that will get your father's attention."
Faramir glared at Beregond indignantly. "I only arranged this to tell you what I will do because I didn't want you to worry; nothing more, nothing less. I suppose it was a mistake from my part." And with no other word he turned to disappear into the dark streets.
Beregond bit his lower lip. Disagreeing or not, Faramir had become his best friend and now it seemed that their friendship was in serious jeopardy. But what was he supposed to do? Before he realised what he was doing, he was running after Faramir.
Faramir turned, raising an eyebrow. "What?" he asked icily.
It took only a couple of moments for Beregond to decide what to say.
"I'll come with you."
All hard feelings disappeared and Faramir accepted Beregond's offer gladly. They sat down by the roots of the Silver Tree and started making their plans. They agreed that they would meet at the gates two hours after dawn and follow the route that the army would take, which Faramir had already studied on the map. They also agreed that both of them should have their weapons and packs with them, and take a horse in order to move faster in the wilderness beyond. Finally, at Beregond's suggestion, they would leave a note in their rooms in which they would notify their homes what they did. Though Beregond claimed that he suggested that so no one would worry about them missing once they were too far away to be stopped anyway, he in fact hoped that someone would find the notes so that they would be stopped; a secret that he swore to take to his grave. Thus they planned for a long time, until all arrangements were discussed. The moon was already half-way up on the sky by the time they separated.
Everything had gone according to plan. At dawn, Beregond and Faramir said farewell to their brothers and then, fully packed and with the excuse that they would go for a swim by the river, took their horses and went at the gates. Minas Tirith wasn't in alarm to prevent citizens from leaving the city, and it was no exception for the boys either. And so, before the sun had reached up in the sky, both were riding towards the river of Anduin in their travelling clothes and their weapons buckled on their side. Faramir had a small knife, whereas Beregond had his father's sword; he had grown strong enough to wield any sword besides the training ones. Only when the sun was about to disappear on the horizon they decided to have a small rest. They figured they would need all their strength if they were to ride again during the night as they intended.
Night settled in swiftly, and the moon rose to light the boys' path, enabling them to look for a shallow part of the river. Neither Beregond nor Faramir were too keen on having to get wet, but it couldn't be helped. After the Orc sightings, the bridges had become too well-guarded and so they would be bound to be seen if they attempted to pass through there.
They were still looking for that easy pass across when the horses snorted nervously. Before the boys could understand the reason for this, they heard a noise on their left.
"What was that?" whispered Faramir, guiding his horse close at Beregond's.
"I don't know," answered Beregond. "All I can say for sure is that it can't be any of the bridge keepers; the closest post is still some distance away from us."
Even in the blue veil of the night, Beregond could see his friend's eyes shining.
"Let us go and look into it," Faramir suggested, immediately dismounting.
Beregond let out a small groan. He used his horse as barrier to cut Faramir's way. "It could be an animal looking for food; which means we should let it be on its own way. Can we go now?"
Faramir looked at him in defiance. "We can go," he said, "as soon as I see the 'animal'."
Beregond huffed in frustration as he watched Faramir sneaking toward some bushes. He didn't like wandering in the wild like a highwayman when he knew he wasn't supposed to be there in the first place. Yet how could he make Faramir understand that he didn't join in his venture because he was drawn by adventure or to prove his worth by going against the laws? That he simply wanted to make sure his friend stayed safe? Which also meant help him avoid any unnecessary risks? They were already in enough trouble.
Just then, Faramir signalled to him. Huffing in annoyance again, Beregond dismounted also and sneaked close to his friend.
"Well?" he whispered curtly. "What is it?"
Beregond covered his mouth to muffle his gasp of shock and looked towards the shore. To his dismay, Faramir didn't err. Several feet away from them were five of the foul beasts, soaking wet and talking among themselves in the language of Mordor.
"A scouting team," whispered Faramir in Beregond's ear. "They must have swum across the river to look into the realm's defences."
Beregond nodded his agreement, while he was trying to ponder on the next best course of action.
"The bridge isn't all that far away. We must try to find the guards and warn them," he finally said.
"Do you think they can manage them?" asked Faramir.
"Barely, I'm afraid. There are usually only four guards at this hour. But if they take all five Orcs by surprise…"
"Wait," interrupted Faramir. "Did you say five?"
"I did. Why?"
"There were six before I signalled to you to come. I am sure of it."
Beregond raised an eyebrow in disbelief and counted the Orcs again.
"I still see five."
Faramir counted them also and then faced Beregond, his confusion evident in his eyes. "Where is the other one?"
Suddenly, both Beregond and Faramir felt sharp claws gripping their shoulders.
"Well, well," hissed a raspy, inhuman voice, "What have we here? It seems two little mice have gotten their little feet in a rat trap!"
The boys cried in horror and tried to wrench themselves free, but it was of no use; the Orc was holding them too tightly, his claws digging painfully on their skin. Things looked ill indeed, when Faramir remembered his knife. In an instant, he drew it from his side and plunged it at the Orc's stomach. It wasn't a deep cut, but it was enough for the Orc to loosen his grip in pain and surprise. Taking advantage of his chance, Beregond drew his sword and pushed it in fear-driven frenzy at their would-be captor's chest. The Orc stared at the boys through his sickly yellow eyes for several moments, stunned; then fell on the ground with a heavy thud.
Silence reigned once again as Beregond and Faramir looked at the Orc's body in both shock and confusion.
"Did… Did we just kill him?" stammered Faramir, his eyes locked on the dark blood that stained the ground.
"I think so," answered Beregond in a feeble voice, his hand barely holding the sword after exerting himself in such a way.
Then the cries of the other Orcs sounded through the night.
"They heard us! We must leave quickly!" cried Beregond. He immediately put the sword in its scabbard and grabbed Faramir from the arm to take him to the horses.
Faramir didn't seem to pay attention to what his friend was saying though. He simply let himself been driven, his eyes carrying a vacant expression in them. And at one unfortunate moment, his gaze fell on Beregond's arm and face; blood was smeared all over them. In a flash, the memory of the killing penetrated Faramir's mind, making him relive the horror and frighten him out of his wits. The memory was so vivid that it clouded his vision and made him see Beregond as the bloodstained Orc. A scream rushed out of his lips and, pulling himself from Beregond's grip, he ran away to the opposite direction and into the water.
Beregond looked back, stunned at what had just happened; yet he knew there was no time to wonder on it for long. The Orcs could be heard closer and, to make matters worse, the horses had bolted, frightened by the commotion. Cursing under his breath, he did the only thing that was left in him to do: he ran and dived into the water after Faramir. In a matter of moments, he had reached his friend, who was swimming clumsily in his panic, and grabbed him from behind. Faramir was about to scream again, but Beregond covered his mouth and held him tightly.
"It's only me," he whispered in the most soothing tone he could master under the circumstances. "I want you to listen very carefully to what I have to say. We are safe for the present, but we need to hide. Do you understand me?"
Finally calming down a bit, Faramir nodded his acknowledgment and, before they were seen, they both dived and surfaced again behind some reeds. They stayed there frozen for many long moments, their ears pricked to pick up any sound from the Orcs. A growl sounded only a few feet away from them, making them flinch. Then that growl followed another. The boys' hearts beat rapidly against their chests as they realised it was no use to stay there any longer. The Orcs would soon come too near and then they would be seen.
"We have to swim to the opposite side," Beregond said quietly again near Faramir's ear. "As noiselessly as we can, because they are already hot on our trail; and slowly – we need to save our strength and body heat. If you should feel tired, grab my cloak. I will be able to drag you for a while."
Being too afraid to speak, Faramir simply nodded his head again and followed Beregond obediently. Neither knew for how long they swum, yet for all their paddling, the riverside seemed too near for their comfort.
Suddenly, an inhuman bellow cut the air like a knife and into the boys' hearts.
"They saw us!" exclaimed Faramir, terrified.
"Keep swimming!" answered back Beregond. "If we reach the shore, we will be able to hide."
Thus they swam on, never learning what that cry meant until much later. For the Orcs, still searching for the "warriors" that killed their comrade, were at that time attacked by the bridge keepers who, upon seeing a pair of saddled horses galloping wildly toward them, understood something was amiss. And the cry the boys heard was that of the remaining Orc, soon to be slain also.
Finally, the boys stepped on the opposite shore, their limbs trembling not only because of the long swim but also because the water was icy cold. Being the first to regain his composure, Beregond placed an arm over Faramir's shoulders and rubbed them slightly in the hopes that he could warm him.
"Come on, Faramir, get up."
"I can't," whispered Faramir, his eyes half-closed. "I'm too tired."
"I know you are, my friend," said Beregond, his teeth chattering as he still felt the cold to his very bones. "But we have to find a place to hide and try to warm ourselves."
"What happened to the pack with the extra clothing?" asked Faramir weakly.
Beregond shook his head. "It was tied on my horse's saddle."
"Then we have to light a fire."
"No, it's too dangerous. Some unfriendly eye might see its flames," argued Beregond. "We'll have to settle with the next best thing. Let us go."
Always rubbing Faramir's shoulders, Beregond led his friend to an islet. He carefully placed him underneath them and then, after finding all the leaves he could find on the ground, he covered him meticulously. Soon, Faramir curled up, feeling cosy as the leaves served as a warm blanket over his shivering body.
"Don't thank me, thank Maldir for telling us a thing or two in surviving during training," said Beregond in an attempt to cheer up Faramir. He picked up a large branch with leaves still attached to it and stood up. "I have to sweep off our tracks and make sure there are no Orcs close to us. You stay completely still till I get back."
And with that he disappeared in the dark veil of the night. It didn't take long for him to erase whatever signs of their passing were left behind and, after having a quick look at his surroundings, he was pleased to see that there was no sight of any servants of the enemy; so he returned swiftly where Faramir lay.
"Faramir?" he called. "I'm back."
However, Faramir didn't give any answer. Beregond called his friend again and, when he didn't get a reply again, he looked horrified underneath the islet, ready for the worst. To his relief though, Faramir was merely sleeping heavily. He smiled a bit at the sight. He couldn't blame his friend for dozing off; the whole ordeal proved too much for Beregond too. However, Beregond couldn't go underneath the bushes like Faramir, his body was too big for that. He settled himself by the islet instead, willing to stand guard the whole night in spite of all the weariness he felt.
When Beregond opened his eyes again, he saw a grey world revealed before him as the sun was rising once again… and he realised he had fallen asleep. He couldn't berate himself enough for his foolishness, but he was comforted that at least nothing bad happened. And he had to admit to himself that he needed the rest.
Yet for all his sleep, his eyes felt strangely heavy. His throat was sore and, as if that weren't enough, he also had a throbbing headache that only got worse whenever he moved. Moreover, when he approached Faramir to see if he was still asleep, he found his limbs were aching and weakened; his breathing came out rugged and with difficulty.
"Faramir? Are you awake?" asked Beregond, his voice coming out hoarse.
If Faramir hadn't been awake, he certainly woke up at that moment with a gasp. But he quickly relaxed when he realised who it was.
"You scared me! I thought for a moment you were one of… them." He shuddered.
"I'm sorry," said Beregond guiltily. A chuckle of embarrassment escaped his lips. "I sound like one, I suppose."
Yet Faramir didn't share the humour, for he was now looking concerned at his friend. "Didn't you sleep last night? You look worn out."
"I did," croaked Beregond. A loud cough escaped his lips. "I'm afraid I'm coming down with a cold," he added sheepishly.
Faramir instantly got out of the bushes and placed a hand over Beregond's brow. "You're burning with fever! Lie down, quick."
"I'm all right…" Beregond tried to say, but he couldn't help but comply.
"This is not all right!" cried Faramir, exasperated. As soon as Beregond had lied down, Faramir rushed to the river, tearing a piece of his sleeve. He dived the cloth in the water and then hurried back to place the wet fabric on his friend's brow. "This is not what I wanted! None of this was supposed to happen!"
At these words Beregond felt strangely embittered. "If you think I'm slowing you down on your quest on following the army, you can go."
"Who cares about the army anymore?!" shouted Faramir, the tears that had been threatening to fall for some time now finally spilling. "In my eagerness to prove my worth to Father, I forgot that there are actually some people who think of me worthy to be their student, their brother or their friend. That should be enough, yet I was ready to throw all this aside and nearly got both of us killed!"
Beregond's heart softened. Smiling kindly, he took Faramir's hand in his and asked his friend to look at him, something that Faramir did meekly.
"It shouldn't be enough," he said amid his coughs and shivers. "Neither Gandalf's tutoring, nor Boromir's brotherly love, nor my friendship can replace a father. But I like to think that one day your father will see beyond the "wizard's pupil" and cast a glimpse to what we all three of us see already and appreciate it properly. Although," he added, smiling wryly, "I doubt it will be any time near after what we've done."
Faramir nodded his understanding. "I guess we should go back and face whatever is in store for us."
"Are you certain this is what you want?" Beregond asked.
"Yes. I don't mind being punished, but what about you?"
"I'll manage." Beregond stretched his arm so Faramir would help him up on his feet. He winced a bit to feel his chest hurting as he stood up, but he willed himself not to mind the pain.
"Still, I'm sorry," Faramir said. "I will not allow myself to be so reckless again."
"If you do that, it will be more than enough for me. It's good to have my friend back," Beregond said. He tried to smile, but his head felt like it was floating on its own accord and, before he could control himself, he was falling backwards. But for a pair of arms that grabbed him at the last minute, he would have crashed on the ground. Was that Faramir who was shouting his name and imploring him to stay with him? He sounded from so afar! Beregond struggled back at the surface of his mind, wishing to comply. But, in the end, he found it foolish to fight something that seemed impossible.
The last thing he heard as he plunged into darkness of oblivion was Faramir's cries.
*Le darthathon na Geleborn na dhu. Avo pedo an pen.: I will await you by the Great Silver Tree at night. Don't speak to anyone. (Sindarin)
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.