1. A Night in the Woods
On this night, however, the man of action seemed to have been replaced by one who saw things. Or so Faramir was given to believe.
They were riding back to Minas Tirith from a short foray into Anorien with some of their men, and had chosen to camp early by a small forest, for the days grew shorter as the winters neared. Faramir had taken the first watch, and then gone to sleep immediately as his lieutenant took his turn. He had spent enough time in Ithilien to be able to sleep on any surface, in any weather, and also to be able to wake up at the slightest of movements. Boromir shaking his shoulder roughly in the early hours of the morning and interrupting a dream where he sat in a boat on the Anduin reading out of a book of essays on political strategy to a large white rabbit, a baby oliphaunt and a small girl in a pink dress, sufficed quite adequately.
"I saw something in the woods," Boromir told him calmly, a little too calmly.
Faramir reached for his sword swiftly, for the Orcs had been particularly troublesome in the past few months. However he paused irresolutely when he noticed his brother shake his head.
"I woke you because I think they might have been elves."
It was not often that Faramir found himself at a loss for words. Somehow it did not surprise him in the least that the one to reduce him to this state should be his brother, a proud self-proclaimed eschewer of eloquence in favour of directness, who was now sitting back and staring at him most expectantly.
"I thought they might have been elves," Boromir repeated, leaning forward and enunciating each word carefully, clearly having mistaken a sudden loss of speech for a sudden loss of hearing.
"Yes?" Faramir finally managed to croak, once it appeared that this was not, as he'd hoped, one of what was usually dismissed by others as his more esoteric dreams.
"Yes," Boromir replied, rocking back on his heels.
"I told you, in the woods," Boromir said, the slightest edge in his voice, the only sign he ever showed of his patience wearing thin. Usually his lieutenants recognised it at this stage and scrambled to rectify matters to preclude it going beyond that stage. Faramir, after months in Ithilien, was out of practice. Besides, Elves were not a part of the usual scenery of a misty, starless Gondorian night, unless of course, one had stepped right out of a night of revelry at the local tavern.
"Behind those trees there," Boromir continued. His patience levels when dealing with his brother were marginally higher and he had not lost practise. "But they're gone now, I think. I see no sign of movement any more."
The woods seemed thicker at that end of the clearing and the wispy mist that lingered over the trees only served to enhance Faramir's conviction that this was merely a relatively quiet dream. He had dreamt of Elves before, when he was younger. They had sung and danced and then turned into Dwarves and continued to sing and dance.
He followed Boromir's gaze now, "I see nothing either," he admitted, "Are you sure you saw anything at all?" he inquired bluntly.
"I was not dreaming if that is what you ask. I was quite awake. I do not tend to fall asleep on my watch!"
"I would not dream of saying so," Faramir murmured, ignoring the annoyed look his brother threw at him.
He looked over Boromir's shoulder towards the other men who were still asleep.
"Should we not wake the others? What if those were Orcs?"
"I think I would have known if they were Orcs," replied the Captain General of Gondor, rather acidly. "They were not. They were elves."
"But how would you know? You have never seen an Elf," Faramir pointed out reasonably.
"No, but I have seen Orcs," Boromir retorted, "And a lot more than you have, I might add, Captain!" He rarely pulled rank with his fellow commanders unless absolutely necessary, or unless dealing with Faramir.
"Well, what are we to do now?" Faramir asked after a while, the time spent staring at a mist covered wood.
Boromir shrugged eloquently, "What is there to do? The elves have obviously left. You may return to sleep. I shall complete my watch."
"But if we are to do nothing, why did you wake me?" Faramir demanded.
"To tell you I'd seen elves, of course! What did you think - to recite Haradric love poems?"
"You wouldn't know a Haradric love poem from a Haradric war cry," Faramir pointed out, considering himself a somewhat better authority on all manner of Haradric sounds given that the chances of coming across Haradrim soldiers were higher in Ithilien.
Boromir simply snorted in response.
To return to sleep seemed pointless now, so Faramir wrapped his cloak around his shoulders and sat by his brother on a log by the dying fire. They got precious little time together, and it was not often that they travelled together. He had thought there might be much to talk about, but he found he enjoyed the companionable silence just as much, as much of it as Boromir allowed. The idea among the rangers was that if you kept quiet the Orcs would not come upon you, and you could attack them instead. There were however, others who thought it made sense to attract Orcs, force them to charge, and then get rid of them. Those others usually had greater strengths in numbers than the rangers did.
"You can return to sleep now," Boromir suggested, although not very enthusiastically, and Faramir could easily read behind his words an invitation to dispel his brother’s loneliness.
He shook his head. "In a while," he said calmly.
"Faramir, what do Elves really look like?" Boromir said breaking into the silence much sooner than Faramir had expected.
"Well, they say they look wondrous fair," Faramir began, harking back to all he'd read and heard of the other races.
"They say that of the ladies in the first circle, too," Boromir murmured.
Faramir looked at him with an expression that he was sure could not quite be deciphered in the dark.
"You should know, since you've seen them now," Faramir retorted, "I haven't."
"I saw a kind of glow," Boromir said helpfully.
"Was it a soft glow or a harsh glow?" Faramir asked, his interest somewhat aroused by the thought that even if unseen, there still may have been elves somewhere nearby. Elves!
The question, however, seemed to confuse his brother.
"Glows are not soft or harsh, brother," Boromir retorted, "They merely… glow!"
"Was it like that glow upon Mithrandir's staff?" Faramir tried.
"No… it seemed more… muted…"
"So muted that you might have dreamt it?" Faramir ventured again.
"Of course!" Came a sarcastic reply, "Just like that glow you once claimed to see in the tower."
"That was no dream!"
"You remember," Boromir continued merrily, "You came running out of your room into mine and scuttled under the blankets and refused to come out until morning?"
"I was a child then!" He had been all of twelve then, and quite vocal in his insistence that he was not a child.
"I often doubt whether you are any different now!"
Faramir sighed dramatically and turned towards the wood again. It looked the same.
"Whatever made you think there were elves there?"
"I told you there was a glow…"
"Fireflies!" Faramir said promptly.
"Fireflies flicker. This just died out."
"The fireflies died, perhaps?"
"I didn't get that clear a look at that wood. Perhaps you were right and they weren't really elves. But if they were, I thought you'd like to see them," Boromir replied, not without a touch of exasperation, "If I'd known you were going to be so disbelieving of their very presence- "
"I should like to see them," Faramir replied wistfully, "Mithrandir says …"
Boromir groaned, "I knew you'd bring him back into the conversation sooner or later!"
"Oh, hush. He says that they live far to the north… farther even than Rohan. I wish I could travel to their lands."
"Ah well, you can't, can you?" Boromir said placidly, "You'd have to travel far too many days and father would never agree to you being away that long."
"I should have thought he'd welcome the opportunity to be rid of me for a while at the least," Faramir muttered.
"That's silly," Boromir said a little too quickly, "Of course he wouldn't. Unless he had sent you to them on an important mission.
"And some day an Elf will be queen of Gondor," Faramir muttered, "Well, I suppose I must simply rue the fact that I didn't see your elves here."
"He might send me to Rohan, he said," Boromir said suddenly, "I hope it is actually for horses, and not to have some silly women paraded in front of me."
"It is probably in order for some silly women to be paraded in front of you, just as your last visit to Dol Amroth was."
"Perhaps I should declare very loudly that I am already secretly married and a father of three –"
"Married to an elf," Faramir put in, "And your children are half-elven."
"I fail to see why there is such talk of my marriage when there are far more pressing matters at hand," Boromir interrupted loftily.
"I believe it has something do with succession. If you were to remain childless, I would be next in line for the Stewardship."
"So, you should get married, and have many children as soon as possible," Boromir said delightedly, "that way, whether I die, or you die, or even if both of us die, there is someone in line for the Stewardship!"
Faramir scratched his head slowly, "An excellent argument. I shall leave you to put it forward to father."
"Is that all I need to?" Boromir asked sarcastically, "Surely there must be something else I could do?"
Faramir smirked in the darkness.
"And find me a suitable lady."
"I will leave that to you. Court her with lays of love and valour," Boromir retorted.
"Of course, that should send her flying into my arms," Faramir replied dryly. "Is there anything else I should do?"
Boromir shrugged, "Tell her tales of forgotten lands, share your dreams. Give her flowers. No, build her a garden with fountains and bird perches, where she can grow her own flowers and the children can play."
Faramir gave him a small smile, "Your lady will be a fortunate one, brother," he said softly, "And the children."
"She would if I could give her all that, and a chance to enjoy it in peace," Boromir said quietly, "As would all our people, would they not?"
"You will, some day," Faramir said as reassuringly as he could, though it seemed to him that all he could hear in his own words was the echo that carried in the silence. For Boromir, he realised suddenly, there could be neither lady nor child until such a time of peace.
The sounds of one of the men stirring had them looking up.
"Well, there's the end of your watch, then," Faramir said, "Do we leave at dawn?"
Boromir stretched his back, and then looked around him. The sky was lightening, changing from an inky purple to a dimmer hue, "It is near dawn," he said quietly. He looked oddly disquieted. "I had not realised the passage of time."
"Nor had I," Faramir said, stifling a yawn, "But I am glad we spent it productively."
"Talking of elves that may not have been there and marriages that shall not happen anytime soon?" Boromir asked wryly, as he rose.
"Talking," Faramir said simply and smiled, stifling another yawn, "Whether they were elves or not, I am glad you chose to share them with me."