1. Speaking to Birds
He felt like a truanting school-boy when he deliberately avoided an earnest looking clerk, who, from the look on his furrowed brow, was in search of someone to answer his query. Faramir emerged from behind the wall-hanging that hid the servant's stairs as he heard the soft-shod feet pad away. He noted absently that his own feet, booted in heavy leather, thudded dully on the floors. He still hadn't changed to wearing shoes again; too much of a habit from years of war, let alone the last eight months spent campaigning in the south. Now he was home, but still in that awkward transition between commanding men and commanding a household. And at the moment – the former seemed an easier option.
Avoiding all but the occasional guard and a few chamber-maids, he came to his old rooms. 'I must order all of my things to be taken to the Steward's apartments', he thought. Somehow it had felt disloyal to do so, but it was now over a year since his father's death. The thought still brought back painful memories and without realising it he absently rubbed the long patch of wrinkled skin under his sleeve that was the last reminder of the pyre that had almost taken his life along with his father's. He hadn't realised how long he had been lost in thought, staring out of the window until a sudden flurry of wind dashed a few rain-drops against the glass. It bought him up with a start, to realise he'd stood there long enough for the clouds to blow in. He shivered, and knelt to haul the brass-bound wooden trunk out from under his bed. He found the hidden key and unlocked it.
Inside was his life; not that of Captain Faramir, but of Faramir the scholar, Faramir the artist, Faramir the story-teller – even Faramir the would-be poet he thought ruefully with a smile. These were his private journals, only for his eyes – apart from a few things that he had shown his brother – drawings for armour, for buildings, drawings of wild-life. Boromir had always liked his drawings of birds, particularly the game-birds of the field, and the hawks and eagles of the crags. Faramir found himself smiling as he leafed through the sheets of drawings. Some things he drew from memory, some from life – and some from his imagination, like the drawings of his mother. His father had caught sight of these particular sketches once, when he was much, much younger. Boromir had taken a handful of papers from his brother and shown them to their father with pride. His father's face had held an indulgent smile as he glanced through them. that is until he came to one of his dead wife – then his face had frozen in misery for a second, before he handed it back in silence and walked away with his advisor. Faramir could recall the shame he'd felt for causing his father pain, how he'd blamed himself for not thinking of the consequences. Boromir had told him not to be foolish. Amah had put her arm around him; she'd guided him away, dried his tears and coaxed him into drawing her instead, sitting on the bench underneath the tree in his mother's garden. It was probably still here somewhere. He idly searched deeper into the trunk. His mother had loved trees, Amah had told him. In truth, all he could remember was a soothing presence and a soft voice singing to him. Her face was little more than a vague glow of beauty that he admitted was more his imagination than fact – that's why he'd drawn her – to try and fix a memory for himself.
The drawing Boromir said was nearest to her likeness had unaccountably vanished from his journals; years later he'd found it among the jumble of his brother's papers. Ridged and creased from being folded, Boromir had obviously taken it and carried it with him for some time. Faramir had left it among his brother's things – it seemed the right place for it to be; probably it was still there. But he was sure he still had that old drawing of his amah in her haradic, red leather surcoat – he lifted out a couple of scrolls and saw something small parcelled up in soft paper. Puzzled, he lifted it from the corner and un-wrapped it. It was an embroidered bird, still brightly coloured after all these years. Faramir smiled as he held it aloft by the hanging loop. It spun slowly in front of his face, the watery sun-light glinting on the tarnished embroidery.
It had been the first winter after his mother's death. Their father was still in mourning and any celebration of the solstice was to be private and low-key among the Court, with only the barest of official ceremony to mark the passing of the longest night and the birth of the new sun. Their mother had brought her family's tree-traditions with her, stemming, so his amah said, from something they did in the old North kingdom. There, Amah told them, each household decorated a tree, to honour that one tree as a symbol of all nature and growing things. Boromir said he could remember helping their mother decorate such a tree in her rooms with ribbons and glass ornaments and gilded foil cut into icicles. Faramir didn't remember clearly, just a vague impression of sparkling branches and glowing candles.
He had so wanted to have a Solstice tree again, and though his father said he couldn't, Amah had brought a large bare branch up to their rooms. She'd painted it white and brought metal foils and coloured paper. He'd helped her make flowers and leaves, and stars and snowflakes out of the paper and they'd hung them on the tree together – even Boromir had caught their enthusiasm and joined in cutting out the shapes. Amah wouldn't let them have candles, but she'd set nightlights in glass-holders underneath the branch. The rising heat had made the ornaments twirl gently and the foil caught the light and sparkled brightly. Before they went to bed, she'd bought out two small parcels, one for each of them. They were embroidered birds, richly coloured, blue and orange and glinting with bright gold thread. She'd said if they whispered a message to them, the solstice birds would carry it to their mother. Boromir had stared at her, his face frozen between disbelief and anger. Faramir could still hear her urgent whisper; she'd taken Boromir to one side where she'd thought he couldn't overhear them.
"Boromir, you know you can speak to her in your thoughts, your brother needs something solid to believe will take his words to her. He's your little brother – protect him." she'd said.
After that they had kept the tradition of having a branch in their rooms that they decorated. Then Amah decorated it for them when they were young men too grown for such things, but every year they'd placed the embroidered birds on the tree – and each had whispered a few words for the birds to take to their mother.
Faramir ran his fingers over the bird absently; the gilded thread was tarnished now. He wondered what had happened to the other bird, Boromir's; it must have got lost over the years, he thought. It was approaching the solstice – now was the time to begin peaceful traditions and renew old ones. He smiled, realising what he could create, perhaps only in his quarters this year, something for him to share; and he wondered if she knew of this tradition of the north kingdom. He cupped the bird in both hands and brought it to his lips; he whispered a message to his mother and smiled, without feeling at all foolish for doing so. Then he packed away his journals, locked the trunk and strode out to go in search of a tree.
Down in the second circle at the house of his old amah, candles in coloured glass jars made silver paper stars shine and sway as they hung from pale branches still clothed with golden leaves. A slender tree in a large pot stood in the sheltered porch, Melleth reached up to hang an embroidered bird among the foliage; a bird of blue and orange embroidered with long tarnished gilded thread.
"Your brother's doing well now," she whispered to the bird, "he's a good captain, though he misses you just as much as I do…" And as she continued dressing the tree she quietly told Boromir all of the year's news.
Codicil to the journal of Melleth:
As instructed in the last will and testament of the woman known in Minas Tirith by the name of Melleth of Arthedain:
On the land purchased by her on the bank of the river Anduin, above the city of Osgiliath, a pit was dug into which her pyre was to be made. However, the water of the river seeped into the diggings flooding them; therefore a platform of wood was laid over the pit and her pyre made above it and her body laid thereon. By order of the late King Elessar, in her hands was placed a small bough cut from the White Tree. King Elessar himself lit the funeral pyre, aided by his son, then Prince Eldarion, and by his daughter's; Queen Arwen and other members of the Court were not present, though it has been said a small party of Elves were seen in attendance, marking the occasion in their own manner. The following day, the pit was filled in to bury the ashes and a particular tree planted there according to her instructions and with the expressed desire of the King.
King Elessar died later that same year.
Annotated to the journal of Melleth, by Ohtar, King's Scholar, who has transcribed the writings of Melleth, and the annotations made therein by King Elessar and his Steward, Lord Faramir, by order of King Eldarion. Being for his private library – that the doings of his father should not be lost.
Addenda: Noted by Thorondir, King's Scholar to King Castamir, son of the late King Eldarion:
It is recorded that this tree had been grown in a pot in the courtyard of her house at Minas Tirith for a considerable number of years before her death. This had caused it to remain about the height of a man, but being allowed unrestricted growth it quickly grew to a great size. The tree is of foreign origin, there being none like it in Gondor though rumours exist of similar trees in the remote mountainous areas to the north near the source of the Silverlode. It has become a feature of the area, each year dropping its leaves all at once into the river, so that they float, whole and golden, downstream through Osgiliath to the sea. The citizens note the turning of winter by the sudden leaf-fall each spring when the old leaves fall away before the new growth, and the Anduin is for a few days turned to gold. Over the years saplings have grown up around the original tree, but none will root beyond the land of the original purchase. This acre of land was willed to the Steward's heirs, and stands in perpetuity as an open space among the encroaching buildings. There for those who care to walk among the trees and admire the plantings made amidst them.
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.