5. The Lesson
"Use the pommel – a weapon has two ends! Now, stamp on his head – he's down – keep him there!"
Boromir gritted his teeth, stamped in the dirt and whirled to face his pursuer. He slashed down, but found his arm blocked.
"Use your fist!"
A clout to the side of the head made his ear ring. Angered, he lashed out wildly, encountering empty space. He yelled and kicked out – only to have his heel caught firmly and pulled hard. Suddenly – he was on his back in the dust; the breath knocked out of him. A foot came into contact with his ribs, not hard, enough for him to feel it. He flipped himself over, stabbing at the leg. The wooden blade slide off the leather buff-coat protecting his amah's thigh; he collapsed, face down in the dust, and got a playful kick up the backside, adding insult to injury.
"Good try – but if you hadn't kicked so high, you wouldn't be on your back in the first place!"
She leant down to help him, but his twelve year-old's sore pride made him shrug her off.
"Are you all right Boromir?"
Faramir's anxious enquiry made it even worse. Boromir winced, to have his little brother see him bested by a woman was an added insult - and she was his servant! – No, he admitted, it wasn't that – it was that she'd done it so easily; when the Master at Arms had nothing but praise for him.
She clapped a hand on his shoulder. "Once again, then we'll have a rest."
"Can I try, Amah? said Faramir eagerly
"You're too young to fight!" Boromir announced loftily. He received a gentle, admonishing shake.
"Warriors are never too young to fight," she said quietly, "they just learn different lessons."
Eagerly, Faramir jumped up from the rug on the grass. He wasn't much above his elder brother's elbow, but he was ready for battle!
"Soon, sweeting," said his amah, "just let me take your brother through his last move – then you can see what you can do, eh?"
He sighed and slumped back down to his book. In truth, he preferred his journal and drawings to toy swords, but the rough and tumble did look fun. Boromir, the Steward's heir drew himself up to his full twelve year-old stature and faced his amah with a scowl. She ignored his sulk.
"First – you kicked too high. The thigh is muscle, it will absorb the shock. Aim for the knee."
She brought her bare foot up to demonstrate.
"And don't use the toe; use the edge or the heel. If you're closer…" she grabbed his shoulders," you can aim higher, but use your knee."
She brought her knee up to the height of his groin. Boromir flushed and tried to back away. "…Only come this close if you're holding off their blade, or you've rid them of it."
Suddenly, he brought his wooden blade up sharply, putting his weight behind an upper-cut that thumped against her ribs. Swiftly, she brought her head down to clash with his forehead. Pain stunned him for a moment. She spun him round, kicked the back of his knee, forcing him to crumple; one hand grabbed his hair, yanking his head back; she pressed her wooden practise knife to his throat.
Faramir's eyes were round with wonder. Boromir stifled a cry, grimacing with pain. His nurse and body-guard leaned down and planted a light kiss on the tip of his nose. He struggled free, angrily rubbing his face with his sleeve.
She grinned broadly
"Too grown for kisses, my bab?"
She was laughing; he hated it when she laughed at him. He scowled harder.
"Master Bethil says a warrior is above street-fighting", he pouted, "He says only women kick and hair-pull!"
Her face became serious, "Bethil is a fool," she snapped, "you fight to survive." She dropped to one knee in front of him, grasping him by the shoulders.
"In battle, there are no rules. – You kick, you gouge, you punch, bite, anything - you do what you have to, to stay alive – never forget that," she gave him little shakes for emphasis, "You – stay - alive!"
She gathered him to her in a quick hug, before rising to her feet.
"Now - teach Faramir the points of vulnerability."
Faramir came to his feet swiftly, eager for his turn. Boromir pointed his wooden dagger at him.
"Eyes, throat, belly, groin. Not directly into the ribs, the blade will bounce off; either under them and up to the heart, or…" He paused to change his grip, "down through the front of the shoulder if they're not armoured…"
"And…?" She questioned.
"Oh… under the armpit!"
He seized Faramir's arm, lifted it high and poked the hollow with his dagger. Faramir giggled; he pulled down his arm trapping the blade. Boromir planted a heavy hand onto his chest and pushed him backwards. Faramir staggered back; lip jutting determinedly, he launched himself forward, tackling Boromir round the waist with one arm, swinging his play-dagger wildly with the other.
"Good", she called, "but put your hand higher – and aim for his belly with your blade…"
She broke off abruptly.
The Steward and two of his secretaries watched the tussling boys with an air of disdain. Denethor strode over to them with a measured pace.
"Boromir, Faramir – your father comes," she said calmly, dropping a curtsey.
The boys righted themselves, breathless and grinning. She straightened; her face a mask.
"My sons – rolling in the dirt like village whelps?" His tone was icy.
"They were learning about combat."
One secretary tutted; loudly enough to be heard.
"Knives?" The Steward made the word an accusation.
"My Lord – even now, sometimes they will need to defend themselves"
"The Master at Arms will teach them bow and sword – you, you're teaching them to brawl like cut-throats."
She coloured a little.
"…Such conduct is unseemly for my sons."
"Such conduct may yet keep them alive, my lord!"
She looked him straight in the eye before dropping her gaze, but her acquiescence was surly. He took a step closer, so only she could hear him.
"Don't try my patience Mistress!"
Her head went up. "My lord – and his lady – knew of my skills – and were happy enough to use them in the past."
"Times were different"
"Times my lord, are always the same for assassins and thieves. I would have these boys able to defend themselves – at all times – even with their bare hands."
He looked like he might have struck her. His shoulders stiffened in anger, but she stood her ground. After a moment, he spoke with quiet venom.
"You – are here because my late wife willed it. You stay – because I grant you leave – never forget that!" He turned on his heel.
"Father…," began Boromir as his father brushed past him, "Father…," he said louder.
Denethor turned with a smile for his eldest son.
"Faramir was only playing…"
"I was learning to fight!" declared Faramir.
Denethor smoothed Boromir's hair lingeringly, letting his hand dawdle down the boy's back. The children's amah took a step closer to the pair of them. Denethor folded his hands into his sleeves.
"You, my son, will soon learn to fight like a warrior… Faramir…"
Faramir turned an eager face to his father.
"… leave Faramir to learn to fight like a woman!"
The small boy's face fell and his lip trembled.
Denethor swept away from the courtyard, the secretaries scurrying in his wake.
Boromir took his brother's hand reassuringly.
"He only meant until you're bigger."
Faramir looked up gratefully into his brother's eyes, not noticing the baleful glare his nurse gave to his father's retreating back. – but Boromir did. He looked away, realising his father disliked the woman, and that the feeling was mutual, but not bothering to puzzle out why. She was their amah – she always would be. He smiled at Faramir.
"Shall we show you again?"
"Later, my bairn…," she said; her tight-lipped anger still directed at Denethor's back.
Faramir tugged her skirt for attention.
"Is it bad to fight like a woman? he asked.
She stooped to cuddle him to her. "Not if it keeps you alive, my bab, not if it keeps you alive!"
Drowsily, Faramir groped his way from the drug-induced dreams. He was stiff and sore and his head ached. He was grateful the lights were dimmed as he blearily tried to focus on the room. He stirred in the bed and winced.
"You're back with me then?" teased a soft voice he knew well.
His Ranger stretched a warm arm about his shoulders and eased him up on the pillows. He smiled at her, filled with that wave of happiness that only she could bring him.
"I was dreaming," he said, "I dreamt of the first lesson we had in real fighting." He sighed, taken by the memory.
She smoothed the hair from his forehead.
"Of all your battles, you dreamt of the very first…," she murmured.
He nodded. "We had bruises, and we both ached, myself and… Boromir," his face fell in an instant.
She bit her lip and clasped him hard enough to make him wince before she realised it.
"Oh my Gil-forod," he lent against her for a moment, before straightening his back into the pillows. "She told us to do anything to survive – she said that the most important thing about fighting was staying alive – I never altogether realised that until now…"
His voice trailed away as the sedatives in his body took him again to drowsiness.
She kissed his temple, grateful that he was warm and living, grateful he was still here – with her. The tears that slowly gathered in her eyes were a mix of joy and pain, as she held her beloved, and silently mourned his brother.
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.