Steward and the King, The
10. A Meeting in Henneth Annun
Gimli did not like Faramir's decision, and only agreed because of the promise of provisions. Where before he had accepted Faramir as leader in Aragorn's stead, he made it wordlessly clear that his acceptance was now conditional. Gimli could and would overrule Faramir if he thought him straying too far from what Elrond and Aragorn had ordered. The realization gave Faramir pause, but still he declined Gimli's advice and they made ready to visit the hidden post.
They left Frodo and Sam to guard Gollum. Gimli waited until they were out of hearing of the hobbits before saying, "This could go bad. I have only agreed because we need the food. If anything goes wrong, we leave the best we can to come back here, and wait no more than an hour."
"So we should decide now what path we should take." They then discussed possible paths and signs they should leave to help whoever was separated rejoin with the others.
As Faramir expected, Henneth Annun was empty. But many men were there recently, and would soon return although no one was left on guard: the ember pot at the door was warm and ready. There was more gear along the walls than would be normal for patrols he noted. It must be a full-fledged attack. Faramir kindled a pair of torches and handed one to Gimli.
"Food first!" the dwarf insisted, and stuffed his pack and Faramir's with provisions and also took more skins for water, remembering Gollum's talk about dust. When Faramir pulled a parchment out of the map chest Gimli snatched it and stuffed with the food and tried to pressure Faramir to hurry. But Faramir unconsciously delayed, for he had seen his brother's pack among those stored against the rough cave wall. He pulled out Galadriel's book that had been her gift to him from his pack and put it in the chest. "This is a safer place for something so beautiful," he said, then continued looking through the maps. "Did you see rope? Should we take more?"
"I think we should leave now!"
Boromir strode down the cut rock path in single file with his men. The attack had gone well: many of the cursed Haraddim killed and there were few casualties in the company. So the Enemy had made a small and partial payment for driving us out of Ithilien. The defeat at Osgiliath still festered. But something nagged at him at the edge of his awareness. Something was different or wrong. He slowed his pace.
Then Mablung, the first man in, backed up suddenly, motioning silence. "Torches!" he whispered to Boromir. "Did we not leave it dark?" Boromir gave swift orders to the men, and he waited for as many as the entrance could hold to arrive before they entered, swords drawn.
There was a sudden sound. Faramir turned.
"You delayed us too long!" Gimli hissed, his voice angry.
"Who goes there?" A strong voice boomed into the cave. Faramir recognized it as his brother's.
Gimli pulled on his pack and pulled out his ax and strode towards the spreading knot of men before the doorway which was the sole entrance.
Boromir opened his mouth, but "Boromir!" his brother called, stealing his voice. He held his torch so his face was recognized. Again, he spoke to the Rangers standing behind his brother, "He has my leave to be here!" and again, as the dwarf threaded his way out, "Let him pass!" And that command was passed up the path through the still returning men and the dwarf dodged his way out.
It made no sense, of course, and so the men would whisper among themselves late in the evening. But Faramir did not move to leave. His voice and the commanding tone of that voice was also known. If his presence was anything legitimate it would have been glad greetings and ritual words rather than loud orders and confusion. But Faramir's commands had come too fast for thought, and Boromir had let be. Faramir's commands still held authority here, at least in the wishes of the men. He had been captain of these men for years, against Boromir's few months.
As the seconds bled out, Faramir stood still as a shadow, eyes locked on his.
Boromir's thoughts raced. The dwarf is probably beyond capture now, and the possibility becomes less with each passing moment. The only choice he gave him was to kill them and never know, or give him trust where he showed no reason why he should. Brother! How could it be that I am your enemy? Never.
There was a dark reason possible for Faramir's actions. Has he been suborned? Is there any secret or threat another can hold over him? Boromir reviewed the possibilities, and put them cautiously aside. If another controls him by sorcery, he would be promising love, not threatening blood. He hurts to do this, to have to do this. His heart is breaking, but not broken! His will is free. How can I refuse him?
Boromir cautiously put down his gear, though it was hard to keep his hands from shaking. Faramir walked to stand before him, hands carefully in sight, away from his sheathed sword.
"Tell me," Boromir growled, keeping his voice low.
"Are all here?" Faramir countered, his voice the same. "Did any follow? Call them back and I'll speak. Otherwise you'll have nothing!"
"I am not the Enemy, but you help his cause if this noise draws his attention. Stand down!"
Looking close, Boromir could see that the face that said these impossible words was drawn: changed and haunted. In his eyes was a caldron of emotions: fear, anger, and longing. "As you will," he said at length.
His brother's guard did not go down. "Call them in!"
After a tense moment, he turned and gave the order to the Anborn to take roll, then pulled his brother further down to greater privacy.
"What is the Broken Sword and what has it to do with Gondor, and why does it send you to Ithilien and not Minas Tirith!"
"I was coming home, but we lost Mithrandir -- " Faramir began.
"He would have done this errand, but he was killed. So I took it."
"You, to do a wizard's work?"
"And the dwarf. One part of the work." Faramir took a deep breath. "The 'sword that was broken' is a man. It is Thorongil!" Boromir's eyes widened. "He will come to help if he can," he continued. "Father will be unhappy to hear that, so it would be best for you if you don't say. Thorongil had another part of Mithrandir's task, as well as his own work, and news will be sent by Celeborn for what rest, and our Alliance less strong that this and every other errand -- none must be hindered! Our fate is balanced on the knife's edge. Saruman is not only lost but turned enemy! He will attack Rohan at the rear -- "
Faramir pushed the warning deeper. "If Thorongil comes not in time, it might even now be happening. And what help we hoped for from Rohan will come not, but attack East and West."
"Where is Thorongil now?"
"In Rohan he is well remembered, so he went there. He will make Theoden listen and maybe they can stop Saruman."
"And you are here, on the edge of Mordor!"
He stepped back. "I am delaying too long. If I do not rejoin the others, they will lose me."
"They? There are more?" Boromir pulled him back. "I should hold you and make them come back for you."
"They will not come, and their errand will be more difficult and will perhaps fail without me."
"But if they run as you say they run, how can you hope to catch them?"
"I must go soon if I go at all. Please, I must."
Faramir shook the hand off his arm. "Thorongil can tell you, but I am not allowed."
"You speak, brother. Yet you explain nothing."
"Then accept, and let me go." He turned and walked back down the center of the cave, bending to take up his pack. Boromir moved fast to block him. "Stand aside or put me in chains," he said in a low, dangerous voice. "I will say no more." The threat of blood was back.
Silently, Boromir pleaded for his brother to trust him, for Faramir to show reason, any reason at all, for Boromir to trust him. He will be gone, and it will be me who must deal with Father! He stepped back in defeat. "When you are done, you will come home?"
"This first, then yes."
And that was no promise at all, Boromir knew, for injury or death or other barrier would void it. He can't promise and Boromir had to talk on the edges to stay within his orders, and all his questions bound. He was left to take, or do what his heart would not allow. Too many eyes watched them. "Let me walk you out."
They walked unfollowed some distance beyond the hewn stone path. At the entrance there were scattered men, trying to catch Faramir's attention, but he would not look at faces. Rather he stayed with Boromir. Boromir motioned the watch to stay and waved the few others inside.
They were soon out of range of all but a horn's call, which would not be used else the Enemy find the post's location. Boromir's thoughts ran frantically back and forth, and Faramir seemed to be grateful of the silence, and his company.
Another hundred steps and Faramir stopped. One hand fisted and relaxed. "You should go back, now. I must go faster, I can take you no further." His face softened. "When you cross back over the river, will you send greetings to my lady?" Boromir stared in surprise. Faramir tried to explain. "Lady of Eowyn of Rohan. We pledged -- " He could not continue. "This war has torn us apart. I was to return her way."
"Bring your greetings by your own self," Boromir said after a moment. I can hold him now, make any order! He is as vulnerable now as I was at the door. He stopped his brother, who then turned at the touch to look at him in puzzlement.
Before, Boromir thought it had been honor that held his tongue. Rather it was the others who stood nearby. Here there were no witnesses. He could now say what he will, and later withhold as he wished. "What treason have you made me party to?"
Faramir's answering stare was fierce. "The will of the Valar is not subject to Denethor's approval."
"Father will be displeased?"
"Would I? Is that why you keep your counsel?" If he forced him to surrender it would break him. Why won't he tell? He had the right to know, he knew Gondor's condition much better, despite what Faramir might know of Rohan. He had been gone too long. What could he make of this? It was his only chance.
"I beg you, let me go."
"Let me take this burden!"
"It is for me alone."
Faramir tried to back away, but Boromir reached forward to hold his arm. "You have found a future you turn from. All I have ever seen is the safety of my people, my city. If what you do is for that, it's what I want. If there is hope -- whatever target you have found, my arm is stronger, Faramir! I will strike deeper."
"Where there is life, I will hope. Has not hope brought you to me?"
Boromir's face became eager, as if he thought Faramir would agree, battle lust rising. "Brother, give me this! The danger I care not, it is a gift! It must be, or you would not act so. Let me hurt him! It has been my whole life! I am the better warrior! Better able to strike and return home. I have, and ever shall be. You know this is not idle boast."
There was a pause of many breaths. For the first time, Faramir was unsure. If I do not give, will he try to take? He remembered the promise he made to Aragorn. I cannot resist Boromir. I must convince him not to make that choice. It took me long to accept Elrond's decision, and this long journey to confirm his wisdom. Could it be possible for Boromir to take this course? It would be folly to even consider it. "My path is dark, yet it is mine."
"Brother, please -- "
"There is not time enough to tell you all you'd need to know. I cannot tell you how to find them, they would run from you, they would run from me if you were with me, if you do not return soon your men will search and all the noise will alert the Dark Lord something happens here and we will find our entrance blocked. I could not consent, even if I wished."
"I could force you."
"No." He could tell by his voice he wouldn't.
He grabbed him in a swift embrace, then his hands were on his shoulders, eyes bright as they looked into his. "Into Mordor? I will never see you again. Tell me you will come home!"
Faramir swallowed, placing his hands the same. "Somehow." It was a weak and uncertain promise. It is too much time gone. "Give me your love and your trust to sustain me. Let me go, remember me well."
Awkwardly, his dropped is arms. "As you shall think on me."
Faramir leaned forward to kiss his forehead in farewell, then Boromir did the same, and stepped backwards.
Boromir watched him as he climbed up the steep hillside. At the top of the ridge Faramir looked down, and Boromir did not know if he looked to see him once again, or looked to be sure he did not follow. Across the space between Boromir lifted an arm out and palm outwards in salute. Faramir echoed the gesture, then turned and was gone.-
He re-entered Henneth Annun alone.
"Where -- " the ranger stopped his question. "My lord Boromir."
"Mablung. Yes?" He took longer than he should have to answer. Getting control of his voice, no doubt, Boromir observed. Mablung was one of the veterans; ten years in the Ithilien company.
"He has continued on his errand."
There were badly concealed sounds of disappointment from those who stood against the walls. Again, Mablung took long to answer. Boromir waited patiently as the man shifted his weight and found his voice. "We thought he had returned to his command," he said. "We were planning him a welcome."
"And me a farewell toast? Are you so eager to be rid of me?"
"No, sir! No."
Boromir gave a short, relieved laugh, and pushed the smile up into his eyes. "That is a comfort." He then included the others who waited in his bantering, and gently defused the disappointment he could well understand. When Faramir had left he had not looked at any of the others, even as Boromir was taking a mental roll, making sure all were accounted for. The men had refused to see that, they had refused to see that Faramir had brought his pack with him. In all the fear they had fought under, so close to the shadow of Mordor, coming back from a victory that would, in the end, change nothing, they wanted what they wanted so deeply. Caught by a surprise they ached to make it joyful. Boromir closely hid his pain and fear. These men knew him well enough to read his emotions. He dared not let them guess.
"He could not tarry," he explained again. "Another hour and we would have missed him. So we will raise a toast in his absence, and wish him well. What have you prepared?"
As soon as Boromir felt he could get away without comment, he snatched up the map chest and brought it with him to a far corner where the rangers knew to leave him alone. Where are you going, brother? Is it Minas Morgul? There was an old map, he knew. ... Gone. On the second pass through the papers, though, he noticed a folded cloth at the bottom. Something stiff was inside. He pulled it out and held it closer to the light. Writing! A letter? No. A poem. I don't understand this.
It was a hand-sized book of about twenty pages, fine vellum and thin wood boards. A deep blue and grey brocade was attached to the boards, that folded back around the book for protection. It was elvish, strange words, ancient writing. He rapidly turned the pages, looking for Faramir's handwriting. Finding no note or letter he paged through again more slowly. Nothing. It had nothing to do with anything at all ... except it must belong to Faramir. A treasure left behind in exchange for the map he took. Boromir breathed in deeply and carefully closed the cloth, then took the chest back to its storage place and put the book into his pack.
In the morning he would look again for hidden messages under the sun ... but he knew that was a futile hope. There would be no letter; the book was another mystery. A memory, it must be. Faramir had traveled through elven lands. A place he will not see again. I will not see ...
He stopped the thought, and returned to his duties. In his dreams the fears would continue.
It had been a hard, fast trail to follow. Faramir arrived at twilight shaken and ashamed to find himself face to face with Gimli's ax. He raised his hands in surrender. "I am unfollowed, I swear!"
The dwarf looked around and his guard relaxed slightly. Beneath the motions there seemed to be a measure of relief. Gimli had been angered but not surprised when the soldiers of Gondor had arrived. He did not understand how he got out of the post unchallenged and he had walked south a long time to be sure before he doubled back to the hobbits. They had left immediately.
"Thank you for the signs," Faramir said further.
The dwarf spat in response, still furious. "That was at Frodo's insistence." Then the emotion of frustration was added to his voice. "They are a few minutes above. I have set Sam and his knife guarding Gollum. Those three obstinates are on the verge of mutiny! I wanted to push on faster, they mind no better than cats would. I wish you better luck of them. Follow me."
"Boromir trusted me and let me free, and I treated him like an enemy."
"He was close to that, you acted correctly." Faramir objected, and Gimli laughed. "Did you not see his eyes?"
Faramir covered his face. "I saw his heart break. I saw his honor shattered on the floor, and it was I that tore it from him."
Which only made Gimli grunt. He considered his description of how he had forced his brother's cooperation. "You would have fought?"
"With your curses still ringing in my ears? Yes. It could have been blood and worse. I was Captain of that company for years and many campaigns. Men enough would have come to my side against comrades on my order. At my word, remember, they let you walk free. Boromir should have countermanded that, but being my brother he waited for me to explain."
"I would have killed any who touched me."
"And the blood on my hands. Boromir saw that. He stood down; I have left him in shambles. I could give him little reason to trust and let me go, yet he did so." His voice broke. "Why, why? I knew well enough to avoid this. Can you forgive me?"
"We got better than we deserved."
"Well, I'm glad," Frodo put in forcefully. Faramir and Gimli stared at him. Sam had his knife still out, eyes on Gollum, by his vigilance reminding the creature to "be good". Gimli scolded himself for speaking too freely in front of their enemy companion. Whatever time Faramir chose to pull himself back together enough to resume leadership would be no moment too soon.
"Faramir got to speak with family," Frodo continued. "It's important, I think. Since it turned out well. Word will get back to Aragorn. Won't it be good for him to know?"
"That is true," Faramir said, grateful for his understanding. "It will be also well for Boromir to know to look for Thorongil. Aragorn will need every support."
Faramir pulled out food. Frodo said, "Your book, Faramir!" The deep blue cloth had always been easy to spot.
"I left it behind, for safety."
=== end chapter ===
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.