1. Locked Doors
Faramir stood before the locked door, a box and a key in hand. Éowyn stood beside him. "Will you not let a servant do this, Faramir?"
"No, I cannot. This is something I must do."
"They are clearing out the rest of your father's apartments. Why can a maid clear your father's bedroom, but you must subject yourself to heartache here?"
"My father slept in that room, he ate in the dining hall, he administered to the needs of the city in his study, but he lived in this room. Here, no one but kin may come."
"Not even me? I would not have you face this labor alone."
Almost he wavered. In the chaos and fear after his recovery, she had been the beacon of life. This would be a difficult day, and he longed for her light in this darkness. But not yet.
"An hour, White Lady. Let me alone for an hour, then come and chase away the shadow."
She nodded. "I shall be in the study until then."
With a sigh, he slowly turned the key in the lock and pushed the door open. The little room was orderly, not a paper out of place, the candles neatly trimmed. The room even smelled of his father. A single, high window looked to the East. Here Denethor had wrestled with the Nameless One. Here his will had been broken, and the last shards of hope were crushed. 'Here,' a voice in his mind whispered. 'It was here your father truly died.'
Faramir set the box down and looked helplessly at the shelves. He could not do this! How could he choose between this item or that? What could he possibly take from this place that would ease his heart and comfort his grief? But for Éowyn, his father's fey mood would have been his, for now he was utterly alone. Father, mother, brother dead. Lifeless odds and ends were all that remained of his loved ones.
He slowly paced the room, idly fingering an inkwell, opening cupboards at random. One revealed a bottle of wine and several clean goblets. In another cupboard he found a swath of embroidered satin bundled around an oddly-shaped bulk. He gingerly lifted the cloth, and two shards of ivory tumbled to the floor. The horn! Reverently, Faramir lifted the pieces and held them to his breast. He wept then, softly, for his brother who never lived to see his quest fulfilled and the White Tree bloom in peace. But through his sorrow he remembered Boromir's face in death, and Faramir could not mourn for long. Whatever evil may have befallen him, he had lived well and died well and had passed to an honorable end. Faramir again regarded the horn. He had wondered what had become of it, but he had not dared to ask. It did not belong here, in this place of madness. The body of Boromir the Brave had been claimed by the Sea, but this horn would sleep in Rath Dinen in his brother's stead. Wrapping it in the satin again, he placed the Horn in the box and moved on.
A large trunk sat under the window, and Faramir opened it. He was struck by the reek of stale smoke and lamp oil. Here was what had been salvaged from his father's pyre. With gentle fingers, Faramir traced the runes on Denethor's sword, the sheath crumbling where the flame had licked at it. He carefully avoided the bits of his father's Steward's staff, white splinters like bone. And here was a large bundle wrapped in black cloth. As he hefted it, Faramir realized what it was and dropped it with a shudder. The Seeing Stone! The vessel of the Nameless One in kindling Denethor's madness. He quickly shut the trunk and stepped away. Yet as he regarded the trunk, a gentle thought whispered 'The Nameless One is no more. You will take no harm in handling it.'
The Seeing Stones were the King's by right, but the King was not crowned yet. Durst he look in the Palantír that had snared his father? What fool would do such a thing! He turned his back on the trunk and began rifling through a stack of papers. But his mind kept returning to the Stone, and Faramir feared some evil was at work on him. He had his hand on the doorknob when the gentle voice again whispered 'The Ring tempted you with power and filled your heart with blackness.'
He turned again to look at the trunk that held the Palantír. It was true. When the Ring was at Henneth Annun, he had felt its pull, the temptation of power and glory. 'Boromir has fallen,' the fell voice had whispered. 'The defense of Gondor belongs to you!' But always a part of him had known that a victory thus won would come at too high a price. For to truly be the Steward of Gondor, his father must also needs die. If he had taken up the Ring and destroyed the Enemy, his father would live, and Faramir foresaw with sure knowledge that he himself would slay Denethor. That knowledge and his love for his father had saved him from the Ring.
But this was different.
When he thought of taking up the Palantír, he felt the edge of his grief lift and his heart was at peace. No work of darkness could ever give peace. Besides, Éowyn would come shortly. The White Lady would come to drive away the darkness, should evil come of taking up the Palantír. 'May Pity guard the grieving heart!' he thought to himself and again opened the trunk. Pulling back the cloth, Faramir placed his hands on the cool glass, and winced as the vision opened. Two hands withered in flame with a piercing shriek, but Faramir did not withdraw. The grief in him needed to see this, his father's last breath, yet the tears flowed freely. 'Is there nothing for me?' his heart cried in agony. 'No comfort, no joy to be had in this darkness?'
With dizzying speed, the scene shifted, and he gasped as he saw her. It had to be her. The portrait painter had not done her justice, nor had his memory. Finduilas smiled radiantly on the bundle in her arms. Alive! Alive and beautiful as the Elven stars! And a lively little lad, bouncing with excitement. "What is his name, father? What shall we call him?"
"What indeed!" Denethor answered, and again Faramir marveled. Untouched yet by despair and the untimely old age it had wrought, he could almost be Boromir's twin.
"A jewel like his elder brother," Finduilas answered, smiling upon Boromir.
Denethor caressed his sleeping son's cheek, then found the babe's fist. The infant held tight to his father, and a slow smile stole over his face. "Faramir he shall be," Denethor proclaimed, blinking back tears. "For my joy is full to overflowing."
"Faramir, Faramir, beloved son, jewel of joy overflowing," Finduilas whispered. Then she patted the bed beside her. "Come up here, Boromir, and meet your little brother."
Finduilas gently shifted the bundle into Boromir's arms. "Hullo, little brother Faramir. What fun we shall have together, when you are old enough to walk and swing a blade!"
"I fear that shall be a while," Finduilas laughed. "I do not want him aged before his time!"
"How long, then, mother?"
"Years, I am afraid. But soon he will smile and laugh and you will have great delight in him."
Boromir huffed and shifted Faramir back to their mother. "Can I go to the courtyard then?"
"Yes," Denethor laughed. "You may."
Boromir jumped down and ran from the room with a whoop. The midwife entered and changed Faramir's wrappings, then offered the infant to his mother's arms.
"No, woman," Denethor exclaimed, "not thus attired in plain white linen like any infant of the city! This is Faramir son of Denethor the Steward!" He went to a shelf and quickly found a white, satin blanket. It was embroidered in gold with the emblem of the White Tree. "My sister had it commissioned for him. Here! Wrap him in this."
The midwife did so, and Finduilas again embraced her son. She hummed and sang to him for a few minutes, then said "I am yet weary. Do you wish to hold your son, my lord?"
"I do indeed." Denethor accepted the bundle and sat in a rocking chair in the corner. Stern, strong, lordly Denethor in a woman's chair! The Steward intently searched his son's face, rocking slowly while Finduilas drifted into sleep. There was awe in his gaze, and hope, and joy, and something akin to fear. Finally he whispered, "What is this fate that you were born second, you who will be my heir? Boromir is of Finduilas. But you, Faramir, you are mine."
Again the scene shifted from under him, and the same Man was before him, wrinkled and graying with age. Again he stared intently with fear in his gaze, bereft now of hope or joy. But even in that stricken face there yet lived love. Tears streamed down Denethor's face and the vision opened wider. Faramir lay abed, wounded and pale, in his room in the Citadel. No lord looked on his captain thus, nor sire on his heir. Here was a father who loved his son!
'Let the vision end here,' the gentle voice whispered. 'Remember him thus.'
Faramir removed his hands from the Seeing Stone and saw with true sight at last. Ever since he had been old enough to understand, the name had rankled. Boromir was indeed the Faithful Jewel, and it seemed he could never earn his father's displeasure. Faramir, the Sufficient Jewel, could never quite suffice. But now he understood. Denethor had not loved him less – he had loved him more, once upon a time. Where Boromir's faults could be forgiven, the faults of the more beloved one became a betrayal of his father's love. In nothing was the betrayal deeper than in Faramir's friendship with Gandalf, and ever after their first meeting many years past, Denethor's heart was turned more fully toward his elder son. The unbidden foresight he had at Faramir's birth festered in his mind, coupled with the knowledge that the wizard held in reserve one who would supplant the Stewards. All futures from that alliance held danger for Denethor and all that was his, either a King come again or the younger son usurping his brother's place. Thus Denethor, driven by the dangers of his time, became hardened and unyielding as stone, yet his affection for the Jewel of Joy Overflowing lived undimmed and unspoken. Despite his silence, he ever craved a word of love from his younger son even as Faramir had fewer kind words for his father, and the Steward felt keenly the waning of Faramir's regard. Thus spurned, his father's love turned to anger, an anger the Enemy used to great advantage in the overthrow of Denethor's will.
Was that why Denethor had opposed Faramir journeying to Imladris, though he did not name his love? How could he? How could the Lord Steward state before the elders of Gondor that he would rather send his heir into peril than risk his beloved, maddening son? Perhaps Denethor had not himself understood, but his heart was now laid bare to Faramir's understanding.
And when the horn returned cloven, in Faramir's own hand, what torments must his father have felt! Had he not himself prophesied that Faramir would be heir over Boromir? Denethor had long distrusted love and feared to favor the one who would not inherit, lest he nurture false hope and bring his foreboding to fruition. Denethor had allowed his wrath, born of love for Faramir, to sacrifice the Faithful One!
So much that had cankered in Faramir's soul was healed!
"He would have brought me a mighty gift!" his father had said. Faramir had heard the words but not their meaning. The Steward was asking, in his proud way, "Do you not love me? Say you wish to bring me this gift, that you rue your choice! Choose me over this greybeard who has stolen away your love!" And what had Faramir answered? He could not remember now, so great was the weariness of that day. But he remembered the accusation, and his father's strange foreboding that worse lay in the dregs. Denethor could not have known such bitterness had he not first known surpassing love. What could have been worse than the death of Boromir the Faithful Jewel? That riddle had long puzzled Faramir. Now he saw and understood.
The grief of loss eased in his heart, but a new sadness took him. Had he never in manhood told his father he loved him? Had his father never told him? Denethor was gone beyond reach now; too late had this wisdom come to him. Yet herein he could find comfort. Éowyn would hear her husband's love, and their children would as well. He swore in his heart that they would not be parted in this life without a word of love being spoken. Turning on his heel, Faramir went to find Éowyn and nearly kicked the box with Boromir's horn. Only then did he remember the satin. He gently lifted the cloth, yellowed with age, and smoothed the creases. It was a blanket as for a newborn babe and embroidered in gold with the emblem of the White Tree. His father had kept it all these years, and it was marked with many salt-stains, echoes of grief born of love. Faramir held it to his breast and wept anew.
A little while later, Éowyn found him thus and hurried to his side. He smiled through his tears and said, "Pity hath guarded well the grieving heart."
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.