30. Third Age 2997 - Part One
"The Haradrim have a new weapon," Boromir stated flatly.
"Not surprised," Faramir answered him, a grin on his face. "When do they not device hideous machines to worry Gondor!" He reached up further and grunted as he tried to reach the next handhold. He found he could not use the same ones Boromir had used. His brother had indeed grown in the two years he had been away with his regiment. Now that he was back for an extended stay, Faramir just wanted to be around him and not speak of fighting, weapons, or Haradrim.
"This is different," Boromir countered, a little angry at his brother's flippancy.
Faramir stopped climbing, strengthened his grip on the rock he was holding, and turned full face to Boromir. "I did not mean disrespect." His cheeks flamed red.
"I know," Boromir whispered. He paused in his upward climb. "I sometimes grow weary of their plots. I... I do not know how Father endures. He grows more sour every day. I was surprised at the look of him, when first I saw him last night."
"He has changed. Though not sour," Faramir stated, "but tired. Almost... weakened."
"Yes. That is a better description. Would that he shared with me the thoughts that disturb him enough to cause lack of sleep. His eyes are restless."
Boromir pulled himself over the last boulder that stood in his way, lent a hand to Faramir, and helped him climb over and onto the gentle sward high above the City. They both lay on the grass, catching their breath.
"Would that he would share anything with me," Faramir wished.
"You cannot be serious? He dotes on you."
"He dotes on you, brother. And rightly so. You are fast becoming the talk of the Citadel. All speak of your deeds on the..." There they were again, speaking of war.
"You spend too much time with the wizard," Boromir said irritably. "Do you need to be hit over the head? How many times has he asked you not to converse with him?"
"I frequent the library. Mithrandir frequents the library. We sometimes discuss things, but I am there to read; he is there to do research. We do not spend that much time together."
"Mayhap if you told Father that, it would ease his mind." Boromir rolled over onto his stomach. "He loves you, Faramir."
"I know it, Boromir, and I would do naught to hurt him. Would you have me run from the library every time the wizard entered it?"
"You speak foolishly!"
"I am sorry. My tongue seems to be wayward today." Faramir stared at the clouds scudding across the sky, wishing there was some way to repair the rift that seemed to be growing between his father and himself. If he were not careful, he was even more afraid, it would cause a rift between his brother and himself. "Might you have a suggestion?"
"Go to him now. Tell him you are sorry. Tell him you do not meet with the wizard intentionally. Tell him you honor his counsel, Father's counsel."
"I do honor his counsel."
"He needs to hear it," Boromir said shortly.
"When we return, I will go to him... if he is not too busy to see me."
"I will go with you, Faramir. He will see us; I will stand by you."
Faramir sighed. If Boromir went with him, there was no doubt that his father would see them. If he went alone, he was sure he would be told Denethor was too busy - come back later. Or at suppertime. And then suppertime would come and Faramir would be ignored as Boromir and their father discussed the weal of Gondor.
Boromir turned to him, a smile upon his face. "Little brother, I can almost hear thy thoughts whirling, thy sigh is so heavy. Never have I thought Father didst not have time for thee and me. Do thou not, for thy own sake, Faramir. I believe he would sunder Mt. Orodruin itself, if it stood between thee and he."
Faramir looked up in surprise. "Boromir. I will listen to thee. I know what thou sayest is true. I wouldst not have him go anywhere near that accursed mountain." He shivered.
"If you are busy shivering," Boromir returned to Sindarin, "you might shiver over this... The Haradrim have bred some new kind of beast. They call them mûmakil. They are the size of a house with long tusks and they are bred vicious."
Faramir paled. "How many?"
"I have not heard. Only one has been sighted so far. By the Rangers in Southern Ithilien."
"Does Father know?"
Boromir laughed harshly. "What does Father not know!"
"He does not know that you were much missed, brother," Faramir said quietly.
"He does not know that you were much missed, brother," Boromir countered, smiling broadly. "But we will tell him!" And his laughter rang genuine. He grabbed Faramir's neck and they tumbled around, wrestling against each other till they both had to stop for breath.
The sun was setting behind them as the two brothers started their climb back down the mountain. "Careful, little brother," Boromir called up to him, "dusk is making it difficult to see the handholds." A gasp above caused him to stop and look up. Faramir dangled by three fingers.
"Hold on," he whispered, trying to keep his voice steady, "I will be there in a moment." He scrambled up as fast as he could, but he was not fast enough. Faramir cried out as his fingers finally slipped. He went crashing past Boromir, too fast and too far away for Boromir to even attempt to catch him. Boromir scrambled to follow, trying not to watch as Faramir hit rock outcroppings and continued his headlong plunge towards the City. Boromir climbed down trying to keep speed but with caution, so he did not join Faramir's deadly plunge. He knew Faramir would be upon the steel spikes that guarded the western wall of Minas Tirith too soon. He must stop his brother's fall now, but as fast as he scrambled down the cliff, the faster Faramir seemed to tumble away from him.
Faramir's hands kept reaching out, trying to grab onto anything that would stop his fall or slow him down. Handfuls of scrub and small bushes did naught to help. At last, as panic began to overtake him, he felt a sturdy branch hit his arm and he quickly grasped it and held tight. The speed of his fall almost tore the branch from his hand, but he held on, terror lending him strength, a grunt forced from his lips.
"Faramir!" He could hear the dread in Boromir's voice.
"I am here. Slow down yourself else you lose your own balance. Father would never forgive us if we both ended up dead." He tried to laugh to ease Boromir's fears, but a sob escaped him instead.
"Are you hurt?" Boromir asked as, at last, he reached his brother. Not waiting for an answer, he pulled him to his body and held him tightly. "You scared the stuffing out of me," he whispered words he had heard his mother say a thousand times. "Do not do that again."
"I think I have broken something," Faramir said, lips pressed together tightly.
"I will get you down. Do not be concerned. What is it that you have broken?'
"My pride!" He burst out laughing.
Boromir sat back against the rocks and stared at him. "I should kill you for that," he muttered darkly.
Faramir started. "I am sorry." He looked hard at his brother. "You are shaking!"
"What did you think? Of course I am shaking. We are almost at the bottom. You would have been impaled on the spikes. I cannot believe you can sit here and laugh!" Boromir turned away, not wanting Faramir to see the tears that sprang into his eyes at the thought.
Faramir leaned close and kissed his brother's cheek as he did when they were children. "I am truly sorry, Boromir. It was fright that made me laugh. I know what almost occurred. I... I am ready to go home."
Boromir turned and hugged him tightly. "I cannot lose you, little brother."
"I cannot lose you, big brother."
Denethor stared but said not a word; Faramir was limping as he came into the dining hall. 'What has he been up to now?' he thought ruefully. 'What mischief has he been into? He is fifteen, an esquire, and still he acts as a child. This cannot go on.'
Both his sons bowed and sat. The servants brought food and wine and left as quickly as they could; the scowl on Denethor's face warned of a bleak meal and they wanted none of it.
Silently, the family ate. At last, Boromir could stand it no longer. "Father. Have you heard of the beasts of the Haradrim?"
Denethor looked at Faramir. "I have heard. What I have not heard is what mishap has occurred to cause your brother to limp."
"We climbed the foot of Mindolluin. A slip sometimes happens with the marble veins running through it." Boromir quickly stated.
"You did not slip," their father said pointedly to his eldest.
"I did and Faramir..."
"I slipped, Father. Boromir could not stop me from falling. It is just a twist of the ankle. I will be able to continue my duties."
"Ah! So you remember you have duties?"
"Father!" Boromir stood tall. "It was an accident. We almost lost him." Boromir began to shake again as the image of the spikes at the bottom of the mountain flashed before him. "We almost lost him," he whispered and sat down.
Denethor's face bled white. "You..." He took a deep breath as the implication of Boromir's distress registered. "It is dangerous on the heights. I have slipped there myself, once or twice."
"I have learned my lesson, Father. I promise I will be more careful."
"That is all I can ask." He breathed a sigh. "Though I ask other things of you and you do not obey."
Faramir's face went red. He waited a moment. "I have never disobeyed you, Father. Not willfully."
"You deem your own counsel better than mine, my son. I sit and watch you. I see you listen to my words and then go off and do what you will, not what I will."
Swallowing, Faramir stood and walked to Denethor's side. "You have taught me to think for myself, Father. It is your hand that you see, not mine."
Denethor sat for a moment; then turned to Faramir, drawing the lad down, forcing him to kneel at the side of his chair. "When you think for yourself, my son," he whispered, "you should first consider what I would do, what my wishes are. Am I not thy father? Am I not thy Steward?"
The hairs on the back of Faramir's neck stood up. "Thou art my dearest father, the wisest man I know, and I wouldst obey thee. But I would not be your son if I listened and did not then do what I consider right."
Boromir laughed loudly. "He speaks the truth, Father. You have taught us both well. We have watched you in the Council meetings. You listen, then you do as you deem best."
Denethor smiled, helped Faramir to his feet, and turned to his food. "My father called me disobedient, but I never was." His smile faded at the thought of Ecthelion. "Never."
"Father. If you tell me not to do something, I do not do it. I have not deliberately met with the wizard. When we do encounter each other, usually in the Great Library, we speak only pleasantries. Then, I go about my business and he goes about his."
"Then keep it thus, my son. I only tell you this to protect you. Wizards are cunning. They have their own thoughts and ideas as to how men should behave. They would put their schemes against Gondor, against me, into your thoughts." He shuddered at the memory of Curunír. "I only wish to protect you."
"Father," Boromir asked, "let us visit Mother's garden after the meal?"
Both boys had gone back to their barracks and Denethor was left alone in the fragrant garden of Finduilas. His breath caught; he always found it hard to breathe here as he looked upon the beauty that she had created and that Indis had kept in her memory. He bent down to smell one of the irises and smiled. These were the children of the irises that Amdir and he had sought and found, and brought back from Ithilien when they were children. Fragrant they were, more so than any other variety that he had ever seen. He was having more difficulty breathing and wondered why. 'Faramir!' he thought. 'Today, unbeknownst to me, I almost lost him. And what memories would I have of him? My own stupidity! I have been unkind to the lad these last years. I have missed Boromir so very much, his laughter, his quick wit, and his lightning sword stroke. I have not been able to best him in three years. And affairs of state weigh heavily upon me.' He paused. 'Whilst Faramir sits and watches my bitterness at his brother's absence grow.'
He bent his head in shame. 'I must attend his training matches more often. I must watch him and help him grow, as I did Boromir.' He finally drew in a long deep breath, sat on a stoop near the railing that overlooked the White Tree, and cleared his mind. His sons spoke truly. He did not usually take the counsel given him. Long had he been under the tutelage of Ecthelion - the harsh tutelage of his father. He had learned so much in that time. He had at last discovered and accepted his own worth, bereft of Ecthelion's respect.
Boromir always obeyed him. When he spoke to Boromir, he had the lad's entire mind. Then, Boromir would agree with him and set off, immediately, to do his father's will. Faramir, on the other hand, would question him. He found it irritating. It was as if the boy, though only fifteen, did not trust his own father. Or that he thought he knew better, more. Denethor did not remember questioning his own father. Denethor did not dare question his own father. Why could not Faramir be more like him?
His chin quivered. It was better that Faramir was not. A tear slid down his face. Faramir was everything that he had been. A doting son, ever watchful, ever striving to please his father. Learning all he could to anticipate Ecthelion's... He shivered. Was it Faramir he was thinking of, or himself? 'Father,' his heart cried out in anguish, 'why did you not love me?'
Faramir looked down upon the garden from Boromir's window. He had gone back to fetch a knife Boromir had needed and saw his father in Finduilas' garden. Denethor was hunched over and Faramir could see his shoulders shaking. He bit his lip. Should he go down? Nay, his presence might be more disturbing than comforting. 'He loves you, Faramir,' he remembered Boromir telling him. It was a hard truth to accept, what with how Denethor had treated him recently. He had been glad to move into the barracks when he became an esquire, away from the sullen looks at the dining table, the sideways glances as they sat before the fire in Denethor's study. It seemed all life had left his father when Boromir had been stationed away from Minas Tirith. Faramir turned, left the room, and walked down to the garden.
"Father?" he asked a few moments later.
"Have you broken your company's curfew?"
"Nay, Father. Boromir was telling the men a tale and wanted to show them something. I received permission to go to his rooms to retrieve it. I saw you here. Am I intruding?"
Denethor rubbed his eyes. "I would have you sit with me for a little while, but you must ask your captain's permission. Faramir," he shook his head in disappointment, "you must learn to be obedient and to place your duty before your needs, or mine. Go and ask your captain if you might take another hour before you have to return to your barracks, but do not tell him I am asking for you. I would like to see you arrange leave by your own wit."
"I will return, Father." He saluted and ran back through Finduilas' rooms.
'I wonder.' Denethor smiled. Captain Húrin, recently returned from the garrison of East Osgiliath and newly promoted Captain of the Third Company of the Citadel, bristled with derision for all young esquires. He would not let Faramir wheedle his way around the curfew laws. The boy would not return.
"Father." Astonished he heard the voice calling him just a quarter hour later.
He shook in fury. The lad had disobeyed, had snuck away from his own company. He stood and strode forward, hand raised, ready to slap Faramir as hard as he could across his face. "How dare you mock me? How dare you..."
"Father, I do not mock you." The lad never flinched. "I received permission to come here."
Denethor lowered his hand. He had never struck either boy; gratitude filled him that he was able to stay his hand. "You tell me Captain Húrin allowed you to come here?"
"Why?" He almost bellowed the word out.
"I told him it was Mother's birth anniversary and that I wanted time with her. He let me."
"Father. 'Tis Mother's birth anniversary. Today."
Denethor shuddered, moaned and hid his face with his hands. "It cannot be. I have forgotten her anniversary?"
"I thought that was why you wept..."
"I wept for you." He lowered his hands and looked hard at Faramir. "I wept for what you are becoming."
"And what am I becoming, Father?"
Denethor bit his lip, clenched his hands upon the pommel of his sword, and strode back and forth in the moonlight. "You are becoming a soldier of Gondor. And it would have broken your mother's heart!"
The room was dark, the curtains closed for the night; all he heard was the sound of the nightjar. He lay quietly, barely breathing as his thoughts rushed through his mind, keeping sleep from him. The years had flown and Boromir had grown in stature, strength and wit. Denethor could not be prouder. After the first two years in the Citadel's garrison, the lad had been sent on sorties to neighboring fiefdoms. Captain Amlach had been badly injured during one of the many battles that the battalion from Osgiliath was confronted with and had been forced to retire from active duty. Denethor had commissioned him as tutor for Boromir. The man had shown himself a worthy captain, keeping West Osgiliath strong. He was also headstrong and would know how to control, yet not crush Boromir's own willfulness. Amlach, just two years past, had suggested that Boromir was ready for active patrol. Much as it grieved him, Denethor stationed Boromir at Amon Dîn. Though the garrison was only a two-day ride from the City, still he would miss their nightly meals, the weekly meetings. Boromir was never dull. Denethor's sleep-needy mind twinged with pain, but he still had to laugh. Nay, Boromir was not dull. In fact, the boy kept up such a lively conversation, Faramir still had trouble getting a word in edgewise. Most of it was talk of battles and such; Denethor could see his youngest flinch sometimes at the graphic nature of Boromir's discourse.
Faramir suffered the most. Though the lad had been made an esquire the year before Boromir left, he was still too closely attached to Boromir. Denethor knew separation was needed. To wait further was to court danger. Faramir must learn to be his own man. The reports Denethor received from the lad's captain only confirmed this - that Faramir leaned heavily upon his brother for companionship and counsel.
But now, Boromir had returned. He had come of age on his last birth day. Denethor smiled. Within a fortnight, he would take the boy to the sward of Mindolluin and perform the ceremony. Boromir would be named Heir and receive the Keys of the Realm. Denethor's heart pounded in his chest. He remembered when Ecthelion had taken him to the secret place. The ceremony itself was short, but the feeling of oneness with all of Gondor, from that great vantage point on the mountain, had continued to sustain him to this very day.
Faramir and Boromir. Two good, strong sons. His heart near burst with pride. He had made the arrangements, the same his own father had done for him so long ago. He had procured three horses for the ride around the base of Mount Mindolluin, then sent a rider with the necessary supplies to be deposited at the appointed place. It would feel strange to not have his horn at his side. Strange indeed. But it was time to pass the gauntlet. Time to make Boromir Captain-General. He would not wait until the lad was older as his father had done. He wanted Boromir to feel secure in his station, secure in his knowledge that he was, indeed, Heir of the Steward of the Line of Húrin.
A shiver ran through him. 'What caused that?' he wondered. Mayhap 'twas thoughts of his own struggle with his father, with Thorongil, with the wizard. Had he been made Captain-General at his own ceremony, mayhap his path would have been different. He closed his eyes. So much pain from that time. Would the estrangement have occurred? Would not Thorongil still be with Gondor, serving her as Denethor felt he was meant to? For Thorongil had been a mighty warrior and wise, and, for a time, a good friend. All that had changed with the struggle for power. But who's struggle was it? Was it between Thorongil and himself? Or was it, in truth, between his father and himself? Was it leverage that his father tried to use to command obedience?
Obedience, that was the only thing ever on his father's mind. How often he had used it as an excuse to punish him. How often Denethor had been banished for not obeying. Yet, never once had he disobeyed. Many times he had stood forward and taken a stand when his father and the Council dawdled. Bitterness filled his heart. 'I cannot continue this. I must pull myself away from these thoughts.' He remembered Faramir's words from the night before. 'So my son does as I did? But I did not question my father, only those who counseled him. Faramir questions me! Is it now my lot to have my own son question me?' He turned over in his bed, pulled the covers over his head, and closed his eyes, willing himself to sleep before anger and frustration made it impossible.
Other thoughts quickly supplanted thoughts of his sons as his mind continued its fretful pace. 'Today is the remembrance day of Finduilas' birth.' Tears quickly filled his eyes as the great bed he lay in screamed of its emptiness. He ran his hand over her side. As always, it was cold.
He saw her face before him, unbidden. Her bittersweet smile looked down upon him as he sat at her feet. She was wrapped in the cloak he had specially commissioned for her last birth date. Her eyes were filled with tears as the cloak's hem and throat were filled with stars. She had loved it. As he had loved her. He tossed and turned until the wee hours of the morning, assailed by minute remembrances; sleep finally came.
They rode out at first light. This would be an extended trip for them. Denethor wanted to feel Boromir at his side. The lad - he laughed - the man had a quiet confidence about him, like unto Amdir. Denethor had always been the weaker of the two, he now acknowledged, mostly due to his father's scorn. Amdir, however, had held Denethor in the highest esteem, gleaning greatness from him. His brow furrowed as he thought of his friend.
Faramir moved his horse closer to his father's. "It is a beautiful day for a ride, Father." He had ceased calling Denethor 'Papa' the day he became an esquire. "Is there purpose to this outing?"
Denethor scowled. How like Faramir to question him! Boromir accepted his father's command to ride with him, not asking where to, nor for how long. Boromir was comfortable in his trust of Denethor. Was that Faramir's problem? Did he not trust his own father? Again, Denethor remembered Ecthelion. The Steward had never trusted his son. Denethor felt anger course through him. Was it now his lot to have to earn his own son's trust? His right hand clasped and unclasped his sword's pommel. He would not! Facing Faramir with anger, he stopped the words that were ready to spill from his mouth. The look of hurt in Faramir's eyes cut him to the quick.
Boromir, sensing the tension in his father, rode forward. "I am hungry," he said pleasantly. "May we stop?"
Denethor pulled up and stared at his eldest as if he were some dragon come out of the sky.
"Father," Boromir, trying another ruse, rode close enough to touch his father's arm. "I think it is time we rested the horses."
Denethor leaned back in his saddle, took a deep breath and agreed. "We will not light a fire; Cook has prepared a cold repast. We will sit for half an hour and then proceed." He dismounted and handed his reins to Faramir. "Make yourself useful. Lead the horses to water." He bit his tongue after saying it, realizing his tone still carried anger mixed with scorn. Looking up, he put his hand on Faramir's thigh as the boy turned his horse towards the nearby stream. "Do not be o'erlong. I would have you sit with me." He had gentled his voice. The smile that filled Faramir's face almost crushed his heart. Turning quickly to hide his weakness, he walked towards Boromir. "Give Faramir your horse too and sit with me."
Dismounting and giving his own reins to Faramir, Boromir patted his brother's leg. 'Hurry!' he mouthed, smiled, and walked back to Denethor.
"When we camp tonight, Father, may I have a word with you, alone?"
Denethor smiled. Boromir had said, 'When we camp.' Faramir would have asked, 'Will we camp?' Denethor loved the easy obedience of his eldest. Boromir's captain reported the same to Denethor. He was an easy soldier, took everything given to him in stride, every command, and obeyed without question. Denethor stared at his son. Today, he would make Boromir Captain-General of all Gondor's armies. Though for the moment it was a titular step, Boromir would someday actually captain the whole of Gondor. Was this easy-going, no questions asked kind of obedience suitable for the future Captain-General of Gondor? He wondered if he and Boromir's tutors had been too focused on obedience.
Faramir walked towards them and sat next to Boromir. "The horses graze, Father."
"Another moment, then we will be off." Denethor stood. Too long in the saddle had made him stiff. He walked further away, contemplating his sons.
"He is not in the best of moods," Boromir smiled. "I will keep my mouth closed and I think it would be wise if you did the same."
Punching Boromir lightly on the arm, Faramir laughed quietly. "I have never been known to be quiet, but I will try to keep my tongue in check and my questions few."
Boromir stared at Faramir. Had his brother forgotten...?
Faramir looked back, his smile widening. "What?"
"Do you not remember, as a child, rarely speaking? So few were your words that our father questioned if you would ever speak!"
"I do not remember," chuckled Faramir. "It seems questions flow through my mind as the Anduin through Gondor."
Denethor turned, signaled and Faramir ran for the horses, much to Boromir's dismay. How could his father say Faramir was not obedient when all it took was a gesture from Denethor to send Faramir scurrying away for the horses?
Faramir espied the hut before Denethor did. "Is that what you were looking for, Father?"
Denethor nodded tiredly. Long in the saddle after years of only short trips was causing stiffness in his knees. He smiled. 'I am getting old.'
The three men pulled their horses up to the hut. Denethor dismounted and handed his reins to Faramir, then went into the hut. Faramir smiled at Boromir. "Do you think we should make a fire?"
"Good plan," Boromir chuckled. "I am starving. There is probably feed for the horses in the shed. Would you remove their tack while I unload the hay?"
Faramir took Boromir's reins, dismounting himself, and led the horses towards the shed behind the hut. There, he unsaddled them, pumped fresh water into the trough, then pulled his tunic off and ducked his head under the spigot, soaking his head thoroughly. Just as he made to stand up, a hand held him down. He heard the pump being furiously moved and water gushed all over him. Boromir's laughter peeled through the shed.
"I could sneak up on you in daylight!" he chided.
Faramir wiped his tunic over his wet hair and blushed. "I... let my guard down. Will I never learn, Boromir?"
"You trust too much, little brother. Because Father and I are here, you assume all is well. It makes me proud that you think so well of me, but you cannot trust anyone fully, Faramir. As much as we have to rely upon each other, you must still always be alert. Not only for your sake, but for mine, and the men you will eventually command."
"I will never command men."
Boromir shook his head, walked over to Faramir and held him close. "Little brother, whether you want it or no, you will someday command even a garrison. You are the son of the Steward. You have duties. One of which is to become such a great soldier, not good, but great, that your men will trust you with their very lives."
"It is not that I do not want to command, Boromir," Faramir said quietly. "I do not think Father will let me command."
Boromir leaned against a stall. "He will." He stopped and looked at Faramir. "You have grown while I have been away, little brother. But you are still an esquire. You have much to learn." Boromir chuckled, "As do I. When your time comes, you will command. Do not hurry it, little brother. I would you would stay out of battle for as long as is possible. It is not enjoyable."
Faramir attempted to pull Boromir down onto the floor to sit next to him. "We have hardly had a moment to talk since you returned. Would you tell me what you have seen, what you have learned?"
"I have learned that Father will be most displeased if we do not join him in the hut. He is probably waiting for us as we speak. And I, for one, do not like to keep the Steward of Gondor waiting!" He offered a hand to Faramir.
"When?" Faramir asked as he clasped his brother's hand and stood. "Can we not speak tonight, mayhap? After Father is abed?"
"We have no idea what the morrow brings, Faramir. We must sleep so that we are prepared for whatever it is that Father is about. I wish he would tell us what the purpose of this journey is, but since we do not know, we must keep up our strength. There could be some test planned. We must be alert."
Faramir looked up as their father's voice called to them. "Then I will wait, but not patiently, Boromir. I have so much to learn. Most of it in my dealings with Father. I cannot abide this separation that grows between us."
They walked together towards the hut, noting the smoke coming from the opening in its roof. Boromir smelled fresh rabbit and wondered what other goodies Cook had supplied.
He was not long in finding nor in finishing off the last of the meal. It was good and plentiful. He noted that there were supplies stacked against the wall of the hut. Cook had not sent the food they ate tonight of that he was now sure. He looked sideways at his father but said naught. 'So, this trip has been planned for some time,' he thought. 'To what purpose do we ride here?' he wondered. 'There has been no talk of attacks of any kind on Lebennin or its surrounding country. Yet, why would Father bring us here?' He smiled. 'I am beginning to sound like Faramir.'
Faramir ate with his head bent. He had learnt, in these last three years, that his father did not like to speak during meals. Wiping his lips with his tongue, he wondered at the change. Always, before Boromir was sent off, they would sit and discuss troops and supplies, Orc activity and the Haradrim and Easterlings, stories of Númenor... this had all changed, once Boromir no longer shared their meals.
"I have not been here in a long while, Father. Did you come because this is the month of Mother's birth? Are we to visit Belfalas?"
Denethor looked up in surprise. He had forgotten Boromir's penchant for chatting at the dining table. He smiled warmly. He had missed this. He missed so many things about his son. "We are not going to Belfalas, nor any further south, Boromir. We are going to climb Mindolluin and see what we can see."
Boromir looked at Faramir, his brow crinkling with questions. But he kept his tongue. His father would tell them what his purpose was, now that Boromir had opened the door. He tried to warn Faramir to keep still, but he failed to catch the boy's eye.
"Mindolluin, Father? Why are we going to climb the mountain?"
"Because I say so," Denethor spoke more harshly than he had wanted. He bent his head and rubbed his hand over his upper lip. He looked up at Faramir and smiled gently. "You were never so inquisitive when you were younger, when your mother was alive."
Faramir drew in his breath. "I do not remember that, Father. I meant no disrespect."
"Do you not trust me, Faramir?" Denethor asked quietly. "Do you believe that I know not what I do or why I do it?"
Faramir's cheeks blazed in shame. Before he could speak, Boromir stood. "I have had enough of this, the both of you. I am gone two short years and I come home to strangers. Father," he turned towards Denethor, "Faramir trusts you. Let that say it all."
This time, Denethor's cheeks blazed, but not in anger. "You speak well, my son." He turned and looked squarely at his youngest. "I do not question your obedience, Faramir. You have promised me that you will obey me. I wonder, have I lost your trust?"
It was Faramir's turn to stare at his father. "I cannot say I do not trust you, Father. My mind questions everything, everyone. I call it curiosity. My head sometimes hurts from the thoughts that swirl about it. Would you ask me to remain still?"
"I ask you to show me the respect I am due as your father and your Steward." He tried to keep the anger out of his voice. A pain shot through his own head, but he knew the source of it. "I will say no more."
Denethor turned away from both boys, took off his boots, and lay down, pulling a cover over him.
Boromir stared. He had asked his father to speak with him tonight. Alone. Yet, obviously that was not what his father planned. And, he was surprised at the suddenness of his father's dismissal. He turned towards Faramir. 'Wait,' he mouthed. Faramir nodded. Boromir lay down himself and Faramir followed his example.
Shortly after, Boromir stirred. His father's breathing was steady and quiet. He crawled to Faramir's side, woke his brother, and snaked across the floor, noting that Faramir followed. Once they were outside the hut, he stood, brushed off his tunic and walked to the horses' shed. Sitting on a bench in front of it, he started a small fire. Faramir joined him.
"Tell me of Father."
Faramir started. "There is naught to tell. He is the same as he has always been."
"If that is what you think, then you need more training in observation," Boromir said dryly. "Father has changed, and not for the good. I do not understand his barbs at you. I do not understand his closeness; he keeps things to himself. He used to share with me, with us. What has happened since I have been gone?"
Boromir now wished he had spent more time on the short furloughs that he had received to spend with his father and his brother. He only stayed a few nights in the City and would rush back to his company and his assignment. The exhilaration of being in the Steward's army was not as he had told Faramir. It was exciting. They had numerous skirmishes with Orcs and Easterlings. Boromir had found he was very good at battle, and the thrill of it, at times, betook him.
Yet, now he sat, convicted of dereliction to the duty he held to Denethor and Faramir. "I am sorry I have been gone so long; that my visits to Minas Tirith have been so short. I must rely upon you to speak to me; tell me all that has occurred since last I was home for a long visit."
"Father does what he must. Council meetings and such fill his days." Faramir twirled a stick in the small fire at his feet. "He spends much time in judgment. The people seem to grow wicked. Nay, that is not the word. Beggared? Uncertain? Spiteful?" He sighed heavily. "It is as if they have lost their way. They approach the Citadel with the most foolish complaints; neighbor against neighbor. I do not understand it."
Boromir shivered and Faramir asked, "You have seen the same behavior in the field?"
"I have. I have noted it among the men in my company, even. The landowners to the north of Amon Dîn squabble over naught. I have not seen the like before; else I never noted it before." Boromir's brow furrowed.
"The mountain rumbles more than it has in a long time, Boromir. Can you see it from Amon Dîn?"
"Yes, the whole range. Though we do not feel the trembles as much as we do at home. Do you think it is He whom we do not name, Faramir, that causes this dissension?"
"Mithrandir does," Faramir said quietly.
"So you lied!" Denethor's furious voice interrupted them. "You do speak with the wizard!"
Faramir's blood ran cold.
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.