1. Never Get Caught
"You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation." —Plato
"Come on, Faramir!" whispered Boromir excitedly, looking behind him to where Faramir crouched by the doorway.
"But Bori," whispered Faramir back. He had never been this cautious before, but something told him that this place was too special for fun. "But Bori, this is the throne room."
"I know!" answered Boromir. "And Ada is in Council, so he won't find us! Come on, Fara."
But Faramir shook his head; after all, how could one play when there were stern statues of one's distant royal relations standing all around?
Faramir hated when Boromir gave him The Look. Why in Arda was there was nothing he could do to resist it? "All right, I'll come."
"This way!" said Boromir, and ran across the tiled floor with great strides. Faramir followed, at first hesitantly, then faster, his footsteps echoing softly throught the chamber. Ahead, Boromir stopped in front of the steps to the throne, awe threatening him, but only for a moment.
With a daring gleam in his eyes, he started going up them, at which Faramir burst out frightenedly: "Not the throne, Bori!"
Boromir stopped. "Why ever not?"
"Ada's chair is all right to play in, but not his chair," said Faramir with surprising firmness for a boy only four years old.
Boromir shook his head questioningly. "Fara, the King is just an old legend. If anything is safe to play with, it is his chair. Even Ada does not believe a King will come back."
"He will," said Faramir. "I know. I saw him in a dream."
Boromir sighed. Faramir's dreams were not something to trifle with. "Very well, Faramir, I will not sit in the throne. But I will be Steward."
And, walking regally, Boromir made his way down the steps. His nose was high in the air and so he tripped on the last step, but he recovered himself masterfully. Sweeping imaginary robes out of the way, he sat down in the black chair.And now they were in play land, where Boromir was the powerful Ruling Steward of Gondor, tall and eagle-nosed with the strength of a thousand ordinary men. With his left hand he kept the civilians safe, and with his right wrote the orders to his officers that caused them to say, in awe, "We could never have thought up these incredible strategies on our own. How fortunate we are to have Lord Boromir as Steward." His long stick, magically transformed into the White Rod, was pointed at Faramir.
"You there, subject," he said. "Come forward."
But though his voice echoed in the hall and was a near-perfect imitation of their father, and though Faramir's imagination was exemplary, he was only four years old and could not help but giggle. However, he recovered quickly and marched forward. "What is it, Bori?"
Boromir sighed at such a grievous error. "No, Faramir, you must say: 'What do you wish, my lord?' And whatever you do, do not call me Bori!"
Faramir mended his ways quickly, kneeling on his little plump knee, bowing his head, and saying: "What do you wish, my lord?"
Boromir sniffed, and twisted his free hand outward in his father's manner. "You must go forth, Captain Faramir, and lead Gondor's army to victory against the Black Land."
"But Bori," said the little captain, picking up his head, "Gondor cannot defeat the Black Land."
"Faramir, you are breaking rank again," hissed the Steward to his subject.
But this one subject was very froward, and, with a furrowed brow, rose from where he knelt asking questions. "And why must I be your Captain? I want to be your counselor."
The atmosphere shattered into a million pieces. The Steward transformed back into Boromir, and shook his head sadly. "Faramir, do you not know how to play this game? You are supposed to obey everything I say! Gondor can do anything, even defeat the Black Land! And you are my Captain because I say so. How can we play anything interesting if you are just a counselor?"
"But Bori," said Faramir, eyes shining as he clapped his hands together, "I could be a wicked counselor, and plot treason against you!"
"I don't want a wicked counselor," said Boromir with a dash of pout on his lip.
"I don't want to be Captain either," said Faramir, sitting on the lowest step almost sullenly. "This isn't very fun, Bori."
"It would be fun if you would play by the rules," retorted Boromir, leaning down as he said it with the loss of dignity that comes when arguing with siblings.
"Why do you always make the rules?" demanded Faramir back at him. "Why can't I be Steward?"
"Because I'm oldest, that's why," said Boromir finally. He lay back in the chair, resolving to ignore Faramir.
"Couldn't you pretend that I was oldest?" asked Faramir hopefully.
Faramir frowned, then his eyes lit, and he stood up. "Then I, your counselor, decide to be wicked and take over. Now I am the new Steward." And he started to march off, crowned with his new independence like an aureole.
Boromir sat up quickly, feeling the chain of command strain and bend. "You can't do that!"
"Why? I want to be Steward."
"But—but you are my subject. I rule you!"
"I revolt." Faramir had his arms crossed, and his nose was as high in the air as he could put it.
"That's not fair!" said Boromir.
Faramir did not deign to turn around but continued to walk off. Perhaps his deliberate and long steps would have been more impressive if he were more than four years old, but Boromir ran after him anyway. "Faramir, you can't play by yourself!"
"Yes, I can," said stubborn Faramir.
Boromir ran until he was standing in front of his brother, barring him from leaving with his own body. "Please, Faramir, play with me? You know you will have no fun by yourself."
Faramir paused then, and Boromir just knew that Faramir would comply. But then, fast as lightning, his little brother turned around and ran back across the room. Bewildered, Boromir just watched until he realized Faramir's goal.
"Not fair!" he shouted, following Faramir in a sprint.
Faramir giggled, for his scheme had worked. "I get the chair!" he squealed victoriously.
And with triumph, he climbed up onto the black stone seat, and took the 'White Rod'. "Now I am the Steward, and you must obey me."
"I won't," said Boromir, trying to remove Faramir from the seat. "I am the Steward!"
Faramir, protective now that he had his prize, started whacking him with the stick. "My seat now, Bori!"
"Is not!" said Boromir, pushing past the stick and squeezing next to his brother.
"Move!" pleaded Faramir. "You're squishing the air out of me!"
"I am the Steward!"
"No, I am!"
Struggling and squirming, both boys fought for mastery of the chair, not noticing that a black shadow had slipped in from a side door.
It was a well polished seat, and so it was slippery. While maneuvering to try and push Faramir off, Boromir nearly slid off himself, but he quickly saved himself from a surely bruising landing on his backside. Faramir fought viciously, obviously taking lessons from his cat in how to defend property, and Boromir could not get through his flailing arms unless he resigned himself to scratches and hits. But he was the son of Denethor, and finally just picked up Faramir from behind, ignoring the good hits he managed to get in with the stick, and placed him on the floor. "I have routed you, traitor, and now I am Steward once more."
"I think not," came a deep voice.
Boromir's eyes snapped wide. "Ada!" In shock he slid to the floor with a thump, but did not even notice the pain in his tailbone.
Faramir, who had been climbing up Boromir's leg to regain his prize, also stumbled to the floor with a shocked, "Ada!"
"So," rumbled Denethor, coming out of the shadows at the side of the Hall with long steps, "both my sons are plotting against me in my old age, eh?"
"No, Ada, no," said Faramir fearfully, half-hiding behind Boromir's leg.
Boromir had risen quickly and backed away from the chair, nearly tripping over the last step again. "We were just playing," he stammered.
Soon Denethor was standing over them, arms crossed, face stern, looking down on his children. Boromir was older and attempted to hide his quivering, but Faramir, ever honest, showed his emotions plainly. "Playing?" asked Denethor in a deadly tone. "Playing at being Steward?"
Boromir winced and backed another step. Faramir was by now gripping Boromir's leg, peering out from behind it like a frightened rabbit.
"What have I always told you?" started Denethor, and Boromir realized that this was the famous lecture tone. "What have I always told you, Boromir, about when I was younger? Do you never remember anything I tell you at all? I distinctly told you, that you may play in the Steward's chair, but never, never let yourself be discovered at it!" And with a twist of his hand to emphasize, that put Boromir's imitation to shame, his shoulders dropped a little, and he said: "You have failed me indeed, my son."
Boromir blinked. Was his father making a joke? Was that humor in those grey eyes? "Failed you, Ada?" he repeated blankly.
"Yes, failed me," responded Denethor. "I always thought that you were a clever child, who could at least do what I did at your age, and yet you let yourself be caught in the throne room!"
"You did this?" asked Faramir.
"Of course I did," snorted Denethor. "Do you not think that every Steward's son has sat in the Steward's chair at some time while his father lived?"
"No," said Boromir, grasping now that his father might not be angry, and might actually be encouraging them.
"Well," said Denethor, squatting down to a less threatening level. "Now you know better, do you not?"
Boromir and Faramir nodded.
"And I will never catch you doing this again?"
Boromir and Faramir shook their heads. "Oh, no, Ada."
"Good," said Denethor, a wicked smile making a bid for escape out the corner of his mouth at last. "Now, go quickly. And remember: this never happened."
And they did not hesitate, but ran off, resolving to do their father proud in the future. Denethor watched for a moment with an indescribable look in his face, then swept his robes to one side in a satisfied manner and sat down in the chair. He was quickly on his feet again, putting a hand to a wounded backside.
"Sons," he muttered, removing the 'White Rod' and taking his seat again, thanking the stars that he was still alone in the hall.
A/N: Before anyone scratches their head at the idea of Denethor teasing...Finduilas is still alive at this point, and Tolkien said that he only became grim after her death.
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