23. The Final Horror
Faramir held his brother in his arms until Boromir's sobs ceased. "I am sorry," he whispered for the hundredth time.
Boromir shook his head. "Nay. I told you I would die for you. If this is what you needed, then how could I refuse? I had hoped... Oh dear Valar, I had hoped to heal you with kindness and love."
"How could you love me anymore than by doing what you just did?"
Boromir buried his face in Faramir's shoulder. "I am sorry. I am weak beyond all weakness. I wanted to be bold and strong for you. And I have let you down, slobbering and simpering and crying like some babe."
Faramir's face blanched.
"What?" Boromir was instantly alert, looking about and cocking his ear for any sound.
Biting his lip, Faramir nodded. "Naught. There is naught but a thought."
Boromir kissed him tenderly and tasted copper. He pulled back and held Faramir out, peering at his lips. "Bitten? But why?"
"Oh Boromir, my brother, my love. I cannot tell you. I have o'erburdened you too much this past year. I cannot."
Boromir pulled him close, holding onto his brother and stroking his soft hair. "Tell me," he whispered. "I am weak, but not frail."
Faramir began to sob. "The babe, Boromir. It was put into me alive." He shuddered as he felt Boromir's body begin to recoil, then grow hard as steel. "The mother lay next to me on the table. She was writhing in pain; her arm had been severed only hours before. She was weak and sickened, yet, she held her stomach with her other arm and wailed of her babe. I saw a light in his eye and horror filled me. I knew, dear Valar take this accursed foresight, I knew what he thought. I knew what he was going to do before he did it."
Boromir put his hand to Faramir's lips. "Do not speak further. Rest a moment. I will get some water."
"Do not leave me," Faramir shrieked. His voice softened a moment later. "Please do not leave me."
Boromir pulled him close again and whispered into his ear. "I love you. Hold tight to me, if you must relive this. I will be here for you." He thought his heart would break. However Faramir had been able to withstand such torture, he knew not. He held his brother close to him and wept in silence as Faramir continued.
"He cut her open while she was awake." Faramir spoke as a man in a dream. "I hear her screams even now, Boromir. He pulled the babe from her womb, wrapped up with the afterbirth and sewed it closed. Then he forced something down my throat and, I was awake and aware of everything but the pain. He cut me open, from my navel to above my privates." Faramir tried to swallow but his mouth had gone dry. He choked a bit then continued. "He put the babe into me. Inside me, Boromir. I could feel it kicking." By this time, he was so ashamed and unmanned that he slouched lower against Boromir; his head burrowed into Boromir's stomach. "He sewed me closed and left me. I lay as one dead, whatever medicament he gave me keeping me alive, but not the babe. Boromir, I felt its kicking slow, slow until it stopped." He sobbed. "I knew it was dead, Boromir. I knew it was dead and that I had killed it."
Boromir moved to protest and thought better of it, letting Faramir lay the entire burden open.
"He came back, hours later, and touched my belly, knew the babe was dead and slapped me so hard I fell off the table. He called the Orcs in and they kicked and pummeled me. 'You are useless. I would have done better with your esquire.' I could not speak for my jaw and my anguish. 'You men are good at killing, are you not? How does it feel? Is this the first babe you have killed? It will not be the last. I will turn you into one of my own and you will wallow in the blood of babes.' I screamed in horror." Faramir hung his head. "But it was not to be. I could not bear what had happened to me. Nothing he gave me to heal me had any effect. I knew I was dying, Boromir. The babe still lay inside me and I could not cease weeping." Faramir sat back, exhausted.
Swallowing convulsively to keep the bile from erupting, Boromir clenched his teeth until his jaw ached. At last, he trusted his voice. "How did you escape him? However did you make your way to Ithilien?"
Faramir leaned over and retched, holding tightly to Boromir's arm. When he was emptied, he slouched again against his brother. "He had me dragged, I could not walk by this time, out to the courtyard. The beast was there, licking itself as a dog does. It looked up and I swear it smiled. It's great tongue flicked out and touched my face. I recoiled as best I could, but I had no will, no strength to oppose it. The Orcs gathered about and laughed, spitting at me and calling me foul names. The Witch-king came from the battlement and stood before me. 'You are weak and disgusting. I would not sully my precious' stomach with such an offense. I am sending you back to your people; when they find your babe-swollen body, they will flee in horror. They will fear me even more than they do now. But you will be dead. Long dead. And I will sit in my hall and eat the babe's mother.' His Orcs half-dragged, half-carried me from Minas Morgul. They threw me across the bridge. I tried to walk, but could not. He realized, he must have, that I would never be found in Ithilien if left to my own devices, so he ordered them to take me to the Crossroads and left me. I could not even crawl." Faramir began to weep again.
"Mablung found you three leagues from there. A little northwards." Boromir's voice spoke in awe. "You had the strength, you did not know it. We had been searching for a fortnight. I was gone mad. I knew you were not dead, Faramir, but I wished you were." His voice broke. "I had seen others... What I have seen... You suffered more than any I have ever ... Faramir," he clutched his little brother's tunic and pulled him from his lap and up to his face. Gently, he took the sweet, tear-streaked face into his hands and kissed the swollen lips. "I love you. I would that it had been me, but I know I would not have shown myself so well." His eyes shone bright with pride, he turned Faramir's face to his own. "Look at me. You are brave beyond description. You put me to shame." He kissed his little brother chastely. Now, sleep." He sighed and began to stroke Faramir's hair, whispering their mother's lullaby until he felt his brother's chest rising and falling rhythmically.
"Damrod," he called out and the knight was beside him in a moment. "We will return to the City now. Help me carry him to my horse. I think he will sleep through the ride."
"My Lord, do you not want to wait? Night will be upon us in a few hours."
"I want to leave now. I have done everything I set out to do. Faramir has relived every part of his torture, every part that has haunted him and kept him prisoner this past year. It is time he left this behind. Time for him to become himself again. Lieutenant of Gondor."
"You will be leaving us?"
"As soon as we reach the City, I will ask to be stationed at Halifirien. I am sure Father will rejoice that I have come to my senses and returned to the army. I ask only that you and Mablung stay with Faramir. Protect him as you have protected me. Teach him the ways of Rangers and leaders."
"Will we ever see you again?"
"In time. But he must grow and he will not do that with me about."
"But, Boromir, you love him."
Boromir stroked Faramir's hair once more. "I do."
"And he loves you."
"He will find another. I have done my part."
"Boromir. Do not do this. You can be together. Others are like you. Other men. There are ways to live and yet love each other."
"It is not that, Damrod. I took him. I took him as an animal. I cannot bear to look upon him. To know that I have harmed him so."
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