3. See No More With the Eyes of a Child
For a wonder, Faramir did not dream that night, and when he awoke the next morning to a chill and cloud-streaked dawn, he felt refreshed. Throwing on warm clothes, he passed swiftly through the halls of the Citadel and came to the terrace before the tower. The wind was sharp and crisp, and carried frost upon its breath, but Faramir rejoiced to see gold glinting on the tips of the Ephel Duath, whose peaks showed black and sharply fang-like against the white eastern sky. The prince wended his way between puddles of water to the gate of the seventh circle, and with a polite salute to the guards there, went down into the sixth ring, with its armories and vast storehouses, where men clad in the uniform of Gondor went like hounds on the trail, fulfilling the errands of company quartermaster or armorer. The fifth circle held similar offices, smaller, however, and there were smithies and other guild houses lining the streets. Most of them were shut fast still against night and weather, but a few gave evidence of life: smoke curled thinly above a blacksmiths shop as the forge warmed, and a weaver stood atop a barrel to open the stall hatch.
The fourth circle marked the beginning of the inhabited portions of the city, though it was by far the emptiest quarter to be found. Here lay the silent houses of great families long since extinct, and as Faramir passed between them, he felt as always the specter of those sad placeslifeless and bereft of purposeand rather than walk, he gave into the impulse and sprinted the rest of the way to the gate. Down, down, down, he went, circle by circle, into ever thicker crowds as the city roused itself with the rising sun.
The second circle of Minas Tirith housed the few horses that the city-folk employed, and Faramir made for the stables closest to the gate that led into the first ring. As he approached, he espied a tall, broad figure clad in blue and grey, and lading a horse with saddle bags and bedroll. "Boromir!" His brother looked up and raised a hand in greeting before returning to his task. He adjusted the straps to hold the saddle bags in place, and then bent to tighten the cinch. Once he had everything to his liking, he straightened and turned to his brother with a smile. "Good morrow. You seem much improved today."
"I feel it, too," Faramir replied. "But even did I not, I should be sorry not to see you off, especially since it may be long before we see each other again."
"Aye," Boromir replied, and draped an arm comfortably about his brothers shoulders as he urged the horse out onto the street. "I doubt I shall spend much time in Ithilien, but perhaps we may meet at Osgiliath, or at least have news of each other. For runners come often from the eastern lands. Send word when you can."
"I shall. And do you likewise." Faramir responded. A beat, and then in a low voice, "You know I depend upon you."
"Never fear but that I will," Boromir paused and glanced down at his brother, as there played about his face a trace of the uneasiness he bore still from the night before. "Are you certain of your course?"
"I am certain, Boromir," Faramir replied, meeting his brothers eyes firmly. "I cannot stay here, but neither can I go with you. Ithilien is the only place for me, I think." Boromir considered this briefly, then gave a sharp nod.
"Very good. Remember that when things go ill, for there is no doubt that there will be hard times ahead of you. You are still, as they say, an unblooded virgin and men do not look upon such as a good thing, particularly in an officer. Show sign of doubt, or falter even once, and you may lose them before you can prove yourself. Be thou then resolute as the sun, hm?"
"I did not know you heeded old verses," Faramir teased, surprised by the literary allusion.
"The phrase struck me, that is all," Boromir replied, shrugging off the implied compliment, but nonetheless clearly pleased by it. "Promise me once more that you will adhere to those verses you study so diligently?"
"I promise I shall take all your words to heart. I know now how to face father. You need not fear for me," said Faramir. "But, brother mine, I would have a promise from you as well. I ." He halted, seeking the proper words. How does one tell the protector to protect himself? I know not even that he sees the danger, but if I warn him too bluntly, he will dismiss it out of hand. Strength can be turned so easily against itself ."Promise me that you will not think overmuch upon the events of yesterday. I meant what I said: they do not bear remembering, and I would not have you troubled by them unnecessarily."
"You ask much," Boromir replied with a scowl, but he sighed and said, "Very well. I shall do as you wish, insofar as I am able." As they talked, they had wound their way down through the lowest level of the city, and now they paused a moment, for they had come to the main gates of Minas Tirith. Beyond the guard tower lay the open fields of the Pelennor, rain-wet, slick and glistening in the sun. Boromirs arm tightened about his brothers shoulders, and Faramir turned into the embrace, returning it. After a brief moment, they parted, and Boromir mounted his horse. "The third hour comes fast upon you. Get you hence, back to the tower, and tell father I send my greetings to him!" Then he touched spurs to the animals sides and he was gone at the gallop, leaving Faramir to stand and watch after him. When horse and rider had receded to a mere speck on the horizon, he turned and began the long, winding ascent back to the Citadel, and he did not look back. His mind was now upon other matters, for he had given much thought last night, after Boromirs departure, as to how to make clear to his father the precedence that he gave their new relationship over that of father and son. He thought he had an answer that would, if not please Denethor, then at least be unmistakable without being cause for reprimand. I shall soon discover whether I read my fathers mood correctly in this! And woe to me if I have not!
* * *
Denethors mood was somber that morning, and he took no time for breakfast but went immediately to his bureau for paper and ink. As the sun rose higher, a steady stream of orders issued forth from his chambers, all of them bound for the Out-captains of Gondor, and the servants wondered at this burst of activity. Not that their lord was prone to idlenessnever that!but it seemed so sudden, this spate of revisions to standing orders. None knew what had prompted it, but many looked east with misgiving. As well they might! Denethor thought. He had seen many things last night that boded ill for Gondor, and he was determined to mitigate the ill-effects of their enemies probable intentions as much as possible. The steward closed his eyes as his esquire took the last batch of papers from him, and in that brief moment of solitude, he leaned his elbows on the table and massaged his temples against a coming headache. The palantír had been difficult to control last night: its visions had strayed over half of Gondor and parts of Mordor even, erratic and seemingly wayward. The cause of this behavior was not difficult even for Denethor to discern, for he knew well that the palantír had simply reflected his own inner turmoil back to him; the more he had tried to deny his emotions, the more confused the visions had become. After long hours of wrestling with himself and with the stone, exhaustion had worn away his ability to feel what lay beneath his frayed self-control, allowing him to observe in peace the areas south of Anduin. But there was no satisfaction in such a victory over his heart, coming as it did from without rather than from the exercise of his own self-discipline. And though he had slept at last on the cot in the tower room, he had awakened to the same dispirited edginess that had kept him in its grip the day before.
In fact, he knew that his morning activity, though logical in light of what he had learned the night before, was nothing more than an attempt to divert himself from the shadow of yestereve. Ever when trouble arose, the steward looked to find satisfaction in the doing of the one task to which he had been born, namely the governance and protection of Gondor. But this time the ploy failed, as it had yesterday, and his thoughts returned always to his sons. He had made his peace (mostly) with his behavior towards Faramir, and he would not permit himself another such outburst. But last night, even in the midst of his utmost efforts of concentration, Boromirs voice and eyes had remained with him, and he was haunted by the sudden disappointment he had read in them, for in some deep place in his soul where honesty dwelt still, he knew that he could not stand to lose his son's affection. And so the part of himself which told sweetly plausible lies clung to the notion that Boromir would eventually let fall that incident, being generally unable to hold a grudge for long, unless it were against Mordor. His elder son had not his fathers disposition, nor his long memory. And he is too unsubtle in his own feelings to concern himself for long with what I told him. Boromir is not his brother, Denethor thought, feeling a bit of his own tension dissipate.
Thought of Faramir reminded him that the boy would come soon to learn his new duties, and Denethor grunted softly. In his mind, he saw a half-dozen names of men bound for Ithilien and fixed upon one in particular. Yes, I could send him with Hirandar in little less than a week; that would be short preparation, but it will be a lesson in the exigencies of service to the realm, hm? Yes. Denethor bent once more to paper and quill, writing out a new set of orders, to be delivered by Hirandar to the current commander of Ithilien, one Galdon of Ithilien, whose family had been among the last to be driven out of their ancestral lands, when Ecthelion had been a young man and newly steward of Gondor. Galdon would serve as captain for awhile still, then be transferred elsewhere, to Osgiliath, perhaps, where there was always need for a proven company commander. He also wrote out the confirmation of Faramirs new office, making him a lieutenant of the realm with all the responsibility that that entailed.
No sooner had he finished that necessary task than a knock sounded. As his esquire had not yet returned, Denethor simply raised his voice and called, "Come!" Glancing up from the paper, he saw the door opened wide enough to admit the slender frame of his second son, who shut it quietly behind him. Then Faramir turned and squared his shoulders and strode forward at a measured pace until he reached the bureau. "Good morrow, sir," he said, "Boromir departed this morning ere the second hour, but he sends his greetings to his father." Faramir finished in a very even tone and Denethor noted well the resolution in those grey eyes. Apparently, Faramir, too, was unwilling to let his composure crack again, and he assumed now the reserve of a servant reporting to his master. It amused his father, but Denethor did not smile. If Faramir wished the meeting to be professional, then the steward had no objections.
"Good morrow and thank you, then." Denethor said gravely. He slid the writ of commission over the table top to Faramir, who studied it briefly and then gave a minute nod, though he seemed to catch his breath at the same time. "If you would accept the honors therein, then swear to me now."
Faramir glanced up quickly, meeting his fathers eyes, but if he had any protest, it died aborning and he nodded. Such an oath was normally made before investiture with an office, and usually it was public. But there was precedent for a more private ceremony, and as Faramir drew his sword and went down to one knee, he showed no trace of any emotion at all. He set the sword upright, resting it on its tip, and laid his hands upon the hilts, and began: "Here do I swear fealty and service to Gondor, and to the Lord and Steward of the realm, to speak and be silent, to do and to let be, to come and to go, in need or plenty, in peace or war, in living or dying, from this hour henceforth, until my lord release me or death take me, or the world end. So say I, Faramir son of Denethor of Minas Tirith and steward of Gondor."
He spoke with quiet intensity, and the solemnity of the ancient formula was given new life in his mouth. And as he spoke, Faramirs left hand slid along the blade, leaving a trail of blood, and Denethors eyes narrowed slightly in surprise. Blood-letting at oath-takings was older even than the words themselves, and was no longer a part of the formal ceremony, but Faramir seemed to wish that there be no mistaking his intentions. He had even used the correct hand, since a warrior would never jeopardize his ability to hold a blade, which meant that the boy had studied for this moment. And now he has bound me to a similar declaration of faith, the steward thought, feeling on the one hand irked at the implied challenge, but also admiring, in a grudging way, the manner of the challenge. I suppose one must admit that he has a certain style!
So he spoke in his turn, "And this do I hear, Denethor son of Ecthelion, Lord of Gondor and Steward of the High King and I will not forget it, nor fail to reward that which is given: fealty with love, valor with honor, oath-breaking with vengeance." And the blade darkened as his blood stained the opposite edge. Faramir did not flinch, and the look in his eyes as he gazed up at his father was one of grim satisfaction. "Now rise, Faramir of Gondor, and learn now your first duty," Denethor said, nonchalantly wrapping his cut hand in a handkerchief that he pulled from his pocket, unwilling to bleed on anything important. "I have dispatches for Ithilien that you will need to discuss with Galdon when you arrive. I expect that he will be a suitable teacher for you for the next two years before he moves to Osgiliaths garrison, when you will inherit command. You will ride with Hirandar on the seventeenth of this month, and see that Galdon receives them. You will also be charged with helping to instruct the men in their new orders," Denethor handed over a copy of his earlier writing that he had retained for the occasion. Faramir glanced at his father for permission, then picked it up and read it. To Denethors watchful eye, the boys expression hardened at that, but he made no comment.
"It shall be as you order, sire," was all that he said.
"I expect no less. In four days you depart from this city. I shall look for word from you after the twenty-first of the next month. Go now and do what you must in preparation for the assumption of your duties," Denethor said by way of dismissal.
"Good day, Father," Faramir replied, bowing stiffly, and then he turned on his heel and left. Denethor looked after him a long moment, then began to chuckle low and sardonically, and he shook his head. "Well, so now I know what he thinks of me. Good day Father indeed!" He fell silent, staring sightlessly for a moment into the empty space where Faramir had stood, and deep beneath the ice there kindled a spark of regret. It was a small thing, and perhaps there was no one left living who would have recognized its birth in that instant, but it remained, smoldering gently, until events fanned it briskly to life, and from there into an unconfined, all-consuming blaze. For the moment, however, Denethor tasted it only briefly, then set it aside, as he did all things that did not pertain to Gondors safety. Regret was not something he could afford. Not now, not when he had work to do.
* * *
Faramir stood atop the western tower again, but this time he did not come to brood, or to hide until his wounded center could repair itself enough to endure the eyes of others. This time he came merely to reflect, and to taste the free air as it swept in off the slopes of the Ered Nimrais. The cut on the palm of his hand smarted, but he paid it no more heed than he did the bruise that discolored his right cheek. There, I have done it! Let father look no longer to me as wayward son, let him now deal with me simply as one of his men. Let him look to my deeds as deeds done for Gondor, and not as my deeds. He took a deep breath, and indulged himself for one moment in a fervent wish that it might have been otherwisethat he, like Boromir, could one day be both son and captain for Denethor. But father would scorn such fantasies, and perhaps he would be right. I must not let my gaze go solely westward, to what was; I must learn to look more carefully east, to what is. Before him rose the Ephel Duath, and Faramir, now a lieutenant of Gondor, left the tower and came there never again.
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.