9. Fear In The Heart
Beregond stood guard by the threshold of the room where Faramir was now resting and healing. He was glad Gandalf trusted him with that duty, and he did his best to focus on it. Still, he couldn't help but prick up his ears once in a while to hear Faramir's relaxed breathing, or even dare a peek inside the room whenever he sensed Faramir shifting on his bed, to make certain that everything was all right. He was in a way assuring himself that his friend was alive. After all, until two days ago it had seemed that Faramir would die after all, in spite of the healers' efforts, and Beregond had merely postponed the inevitable when he stood up to Lord Denethor.
It was then that the miracle happened. A strange, cloaked man, who accompanied Gandalf and Pippin, managed to heal Faramir with his wondrous herb. Beregond wished to find that man and thank him from the bottom of his heart, yet he knew it wasn't meant to be. The man had disappeared just as silently as he had appeared, so no one knew what had become of him nor anyone had caught a glimpse of his face to give Beregond a description of him. Besides, Beregond had now other troubles to face. All the warriors that could still fight were to follow the Captains of the West and march East towards the Black Gate, and he was one of them, despite the charges laid against him.
Beregond smiled grimly as he realized that death awaited him in every corner. If he didn't get killed in the field of battle, he would certainly die by the sword of his executioner.
A fair trade, he thought. Though he did it to save Faramir, the death of three of their own people by his hand was a heavy crime and not even exile was enough punishment for it.
He once more turned and looked at Faramir; he was still sleeping, his chest rising and falling in a steady rhythm. Beregond noted how the sleeping man's face, now having its natural hue back, revealed nothing but calmness, and that sight was enough to make him shrug off all his dark thoughts. All he could think of is wonder to what pleasant dreams his friend had strayed off.
"Oi! Beregond! Are you ready to--"
Beregond jumped to hear Pippin's voice so close to him, and quickly shushed the Halfling.
He's sleeping! he mouthed at him, pointing at the direction of Faramir.
Pippin instantly bit his lip. "My apologies," he whispered in embarrassment.
"That's all right," Beregond whispered back, waving his hand. "I'm to blame as much as you, I wasn't paying attention on my duty." He felt himself turning crimson-faced at what he had allowed to happen. "Let us hope he's sleeping too heavily to notice."
However, a shifting sound from the direction of the bed proved them otherwise. "It seems you do not know me all that well as I was led to believe, my friend."
Both Beregond and Pippin turned at the direction of Faramir, who was now smiling at them. And the moment that he tried to push himself to a sitting position, Beregond had rushed to his side and offered his arm for support.
"Thank you," Faramir murmured kindly. "Well, good morning, Master Peregrin," he said then in greeting, "or is it afternoon? I fear I lost all sense of time."
"It is morning indeed, sire," replied the Hobbit as he came into the room as well. "Back home I would be having my elevenses at this time," he added, unable to hide his nostalgia.
"I take it you are hungry then?" deduced Faramir good-humouredly. "Tell the warden to give you something to eat; and tell him also to bring some food here as well, I feel famished."
Pippin's face beamed up instantly at the prospect of a nice meal and he trotted away as soon as he had bid both the Steward and Beregond farewell. The two men watched the little one go, smiling at his eagerness.
"I'm glad to see your appetite has returned," said then Beregond, gladdened to finally see Faramir awake. "May I take it you're feeling better?"
"You may. I have not felt so well in a long time actually," declared Faramir. He took a deep a breath of fresh air, and closed his eyes dreamily to savour its fragrance.
Beregond eyed him teasingly. "That's good to know. Although I'm afraid that's not enough for me if you want to get out of bed. Gandalf said that you're to stay here as much as possible."
"Am I to assume then you will see to it that his instructions are carried out?"
"Indeed. To a tee."
"Faithful and obedient as always!" laughed Faramir. "But, just between you and me, I doubt my father will be all that pleased when he hears I'm mothered by you, of all people!"
Beregond only closed his eyes and bowed his head.
"Beregond, what is it?"
Faramir had registered the silence and he was feeling concerned, the soldier could sense it. Yet how could he tell him that his father…?
"Nothing, my lord. Nothing that you cannot know about later." He winced at how awkward that sentence sounded.
"This is not you!" exclaimed Faramir. "You would never answer me in such an evasive way if something wasn't wrong. And you certainly wouldn't have called me "my lord" either!"
"Faramir, please!" He quickly looked at the other direction. "I was asked not to tell you anything!"
"Then there is something wrong!" A small pause. "Something has happened to father, has it not?"
Only then did Beregond turned to his friend again. "Maybe." He looked at his friend pleadingly. "Don't ask me more," he said softly.
Faramir wouldn't have it, however. He took Beregond's hands in his own and locked his eyes on his friend's.
"Beregond, I implore you, in the name of our friendship, tell me what happened. I need to know."
Beregond remained silent for many long moments, indecisive. He opened his mouth many times to speak, only to shut it again. Until, in a weak breath, he whispered hoarsely:
"Denethor is dead."
"Beregond!" cried a voice in horror from the direction of the threshold.
It was Pippin, returning with a tray of food, wishing to do these honours himself for Faramir.
"How could you?" the Hobbit exclaimed, putting the tray of food angrily on the table. "Gandalf told us not to say anything yet!"
"Now, later… do you think timing would make too much of a difference? There would still be grief!" Beregond said to Pippin curtly. He arose in an annoyed manner, walked up to the window, and remained there, looking out in silence.
"Is it true?"
Beregond's heart wrenched at how painfully sad those three words sounded from his friend's lips, and so he turned again, all feelings of anger vanishing.
Pippin must have felt the same way, for it was he that he answered, his expression saddened as well. "It is, sire."
"How did he die?"
Beregond gave a discreet signal to Pippin not to speak, deciding to take matters from there.
"There will be time to learn of that by others, my lord. What you need to know now is that he died realising that he loved you dearly."
Faramir only closed his eyes and nodded, taking in Beregond's words.
It was at that moment that Maldir appeared as well and, after saluting Faramir, he turned to the other two in the room.
"Lad, Master Halfling, we have to leave."
Pippin nodded his acknowledgement and walked out. However, the Steward looked up and he looked at each soldier in wonder.
"Leave for where? Are there more grievous tidings then?"
Maldir looked at Faramir, surprised; then turned to Beregond, giving him a stern look. "What did you tell him?"
Beregond returned the look without flinching. "That he is the new Steward… Nothing more, nothing less," he said, emphasising the last words.
The old soldier sighed. "Gandalf told you not to say anything." It must have been obvious that Beregond was about to argue anew about this though, for he quickly added: "Well, the damage is done. There is no point in discussing it anymore." He turned to Faramir.
"I fear that there are indeed some tidings, yet not so grievous. I will leave the two of you alone for a while to talk." He stepped close to Beregond and whispered to his ear: "You have five minutes. Be careful what you say this time." And with that, he walked out.
Faramir turned to Beregond, looking at him questioningly. "Well?"
Beregond didn't speak for a moment or two, trying to put his thoughts in order; then heaved a sigh. "All soldiers are to leave Minas Tirith, by Gandalf's orders. We are to march against Sauron one last time, and face him outside the Black Gate of the Morannon."
Faramir gasped, clearly not expecting to hear something like this. "But Sauron's forces are massive! Is there a chance of victory then?"
Beregond smirked. "Truthfully? No. And I think Gandalf is aware of that, too."
"This does not make any sense!" Faramir exclaimed. "Gandalf would never have suggested such a suicidal mission and waste so many lives in this way unless he had hope in something!"
"If he has, I do not know what it could be," answered Beregond solemnly.
Suddenly, Faramir's face shone with what it seemed realisation. "Maybe not you, my friend… but I do." He looked out the window, into the East, and suddenly whispered, "Two little Hobbits."
"What?" Beregond didn't understand what Faramir said.
Faramir only waved his hand. "Do not mind me. I was only thinking aloud. Will you also march to the gate?"
So we come to it at last, thought Beregond. "Yes. And that is why I wish to ask you a favour, in the name of our friendship."
"What is it?"
It was then that Beregond walked up to his friend and knelt down, bowing low. That was something that Faramir didn't approve at all, for he grasped Beregond's shoulders to make him stand up again.
"Steward or not, you are my friend," he said. "If you want to ask of me something, do not go through that protocol."
But Beregond wouldn't have it. He didn't intend to. "It has to be done this way."
"Beregond, I am not comfortable with this. Do you not understand?" Faramir exclaimed.
"I do!" Beregond cried exasperatingly, "But I cannot take any chances!"
Faramir froze, looking at his friend in wonder.
"Faramir," the soldier continued then, softening his tone. "If it weren't important, I wouldn't go through with it. You understand that, don't you?" he said, his eyes locking on his friend's. Please, understand.
Faramir must have sensed Beregond's silent plea as they still looked into each other's eyes, because his next words were: "Go on."
Beregond nodded, and bowed again. "I beg of the Steward of Gondor to promise me that, should I die, my son will be always under his protection."
"You have the Steward's oath," answered Faramir in the end.
A breath that he never realised that he had been holding escaped Beregond's lips. Bergil would be safe, whether he died at the battlefield or not. No one would accuse him as the traitor's son, and no one would be able to harm him because of it. After all, a Steward's word couldn't be denied by any man except for the king himself; that was the law.
"Thank you," he whispered, his voice coming out raw with emotion; then arose. "Farewell, best of friends." He was about to walk out, when Faramir grabbed his arm and stopped him.
"What are you afraid of? What makes you act so irrationally?" He was eyeing Beregond worriedly now. "Do not tell me it is the battle, because I know you will be lying."
The soldier caught himself faltering as he tried to answer. "No, not the battle."
Beregond faced Faramir, trying to stare his fear in the eye. "Do you remember what you told me when we first met? That no one's really dead as long as they're remembered with love?"
Faramir looked at Beregond closely. "What are you trying to say?"
A sad smile tugged Beregond's lips.
"I fear I won't be remembered with love. That will truly kill me."
And he walked out.
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.