4. Birthday Kisses-by Raksha the Demon
It was a quiet celebration: no clowns or minstrels or crowds of happy children, just the family, what remained of it, and platters of sweets. Since my sister’s death, Denethor had known no joy, even in this, Faramir’s sixth birthday celebration. Faramir received new clothing, a practice sword, and even a leather-bound book about the Elendili, his favorite heroes. He accepted them with his mother‘s well-remembered grace, but his smile never touched his solemn grey eyes.
I brought forth the special present that I had borne from Dol Amroth. I set down the cage and opened its door to release the gift. Faramir gasped in surprise when the puppy stepped cautiously out, a tiny creature with a soft blue-gray coat.
“It’s just like Mousie!” Boromir exclaimed.
Faramir opened his hands beneath the pup’s nose and let her sniff his fingers.
“You are right, Boromir” I said. “This is Mousie’s puppy. She wanted her pup to come to live with Faramir. It is a bitch pup; Faramir, and will love you as her mother did if you are good and kind to her.”
Mousie was my sister’s adored Belfalas Greyhound. Denethor could not bear to set eyes on the bitch after Finduilas had left us. I had taken Mousie home with me, heavy with the litter Finduilas had not lived to see.
Two small sounds cheered the quiet chamber: the pup’s excited squeak in response to Faramir’s touch; and Faramir’s answering laugh. He carefully lifted the puppy in his arms, holding her against his chest. The puppy nibbled the ends of Faramir’s hair, then licked his chin.
I remembered my sister holding Mouse as a pup, giggling at her antics. Faramir had always loved his mother’s dog; and had fretted at her departure, so soon after Finduilas‘ passing. But now, Faramir and Boromir smiled.
“Oh, Uncle, thank you; she is wondrous!” Faramir said, his eyes alight with joy. My heart warmed to see the lad so cheered; but I could not accept his thanks.
“Nay Faramir; she is not my gift. Your father told me to bring her here for you.”
“Father?” Faramir looked up, utterly surprised, at his stern-faced father. “She is your gift?”
Denethor came to his son, and bent down, his shadow partially engulfing both boys. “Yes, my son. Your mother would have wanted you to have the animal. But you must care well for it, and train it, and keep it out of the Tower Hall.”
“I will! Thank you, truly, Sire!” Faramir reached up toward the tall grim figure. Denethor stepped back slightly. Then he knelt and placed his hand on Faramir’s head.
“A good birthday to you, Faramir” Denethor pronounced quietly, and withdrew to his seat. For a moment, Faramir looked wistfully after his father. But the puppy found Faramir’s fingers then, and licked them, and rolled over as the child happily rubbed her belly.
Seeing the boy revel in the puppy‘s affection, I was saddened that Denethor could still find it so hard to bestow fatherly tenderness upon his younger son. They were both bereaved. Denethor had comforted Boromir, who had held his father’s heart in his keeping since his birth. Yet Denethor was too immersed in his own sorrow to reach out to this quiet boy who was so much like him.
I looked back at Denethor. He smiled bleakly, his own eyes alight with unshed tears, as he watched Faramir. Ah. Denethor truly did love his second son. Why did he show it only through the gift of a foolish puppy who now gave Faramir the kisses his father could not spare?
the puppy is an Italian Greyhound, a toy greyhound that is sweet and very graceful, and does resemble an extremely pretty mouse. They come in many colors; and have been lapdogs and the companions of kings (Frederick the Great had one). I often visualize Finduilas with an Italian Greyhound, as Denethor is not a dog person but might allow a small, elegant critter that is easy to keep clean
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