Unusual Prelude, An
1. An Unusual Prelude
I had no idea I was being watched, til a voice said:
“An unusual prelude to a dirge, Faramir,”
Oh, good grief.
I looked up to the balcony and saw- saw a face in the moonlight, with an aquiline nose, and pale eyes glinting.
“Oh, don’t be embarrassed.”
It was only the King. The King, you fool!
I forced down ale and bile back to my stomach.
“Sorry, my lord. I had no idea… Sorry about the noise.”
“Think nothing of it. You’ve a pleasant enough voice.”
“Thank you my lord. I’m sorry to make a racket…”
“But you found yourself quite unreasonably happy and at ease with the world. I’m not about to begrudge you that; I’m very pleased about it myself.”
“Um. Thank you my lord.”
“Look, if it makes you feel any better I could fine you for being Drunk and Disorderly, if you think I really should. Not that I think for one minute you are disorderly.”
“Nossire. Still orderly, my lord.”
“You always are, good Faramir.”
“Yessire. Um. Not drunk either, sir,”
“Good grief. Aren’t you?”
“Nossire. She sells sea shells on the sea shore. The sea shells that she sells are sea shells I’m sure. Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, sire. A peck of pickled peppers is what Peter Piper picked, my lord.”
“Good for him. Look, Faramir, it’s really quite unreasonable that a man in your condition should be wondering around the city stone cold sober on a night like this.”
“I know, my lord.” I wondered later why the rest had to rise to my lips just then. “My father had me beaten for it one Yuletide, my lord,”
“For Being Found Objectionably Sober, my lord.”
“Really? How old were you?”
“About nineteen, I think, my lord.”
“Your father… a singular man, Faramir,”
“Yes, my lord. In any case, the next feast that came along, Boromir got me very drunk indeed, my lord.”
“Did he. What happened with your father then?”
“Nothing, my lord. Boromir hid me in his friend’s lodgings til I felt better.”
“Your brother always did have your best interests at heart,”
“Yes, my lord. Since we were children, my lord.”
“I know that.”
“He spoke of it?”
“Spoke of it? You wouldn’t think that I’d forget, would you?”
Memory is an odd thing. For a minute I was blank, wondering if I was drunk after all. Then from the balcony I heard a low voice singing:
“My lady whose tresses
The moon and stars blesses
Nowhere in this land shall I see;
Where there’s sweet peas and roses
To cushion her toeses
My lady is waiting for me!”
Yes, it was complete nonsense; very much of the sort that an uncertain man might sing to calm and distract an agitated child of five.
At last a name that had been- until now- inexplicably hanging at the back of my mind for weeks, suddenly rose to my tongue; and, curse it, came out in the same fashion as I had last spoken it.
“Yes. I was wondering if you’d made the connection.”
“Well, I… I did… did wonder, m-m-my lord.”
“Oh dear- I haven’t caused you a relapse have I?”
“It’s… alright. It’ll wear off whwhen I, when I stop ththinking about it,” Breathe. Calm down. You can speak properly. It was just a phase; you got over it years ago. And then I sighed in the darkness.
I laughed, tightly.
“I was, was waiting for… mmmy sentences to b-be f-finished of f-f-for mmme.” Oh good grief, that was bad.
“Ah… yes.” I saw a drift of pale smoke flow from the balcony. “Of course. I used to wish he wouldn’t do that. I don’t think he was making things better for you.”
“Hmm. Did mean that… that what I…wanted to say, got said.”
“Not when he got it wrong.”
“He meant well.”
“Of course he did.”
A quiet minute. Somewhere in the Circle outside, a dog was barking, and baby was crying. I winced.
“I hope I did not cause that.”
“If you did, then the child has no taste in music.”
“Nevertheless, a reprimand is in order.”
“You wouldn’t ask that of me, would you?”
“No, no. I’ll enter it myself.”
“Yourself? Don’t be ridiculous.”
“I have been causing a disturbance. These things are important.”
“Faramir, you will not arrest yourself for singing. I forbid it.”
“But my lord…”
“If you do that I shall be forced to vouch for your character and I… I shall therefore be forced to- to tell everyone about Faramira.”
“You- you w-wouldn’t!”
“Oh yes, Éomer and all, I should have to tell! Just you try me! No, on second thoughts, don’t.” Another silver cloud appeared from the balcony. “What became of her anyway? I presume you must have cast her off in the end? Ere you took a wife, after all,”
I hadn’t, actually. I had kept her safe in a case beneath my bed.
“No, no, my lord, I still keep her.”
“Really? Is she keeping well?”
“Fairly. Her head falls off when you untie her scarf, but with it on she looks fine.”
“Yes, I thought that wouldn’t hold.”
“My lord, I can’t help being surprised how much you know of F-faramira,”
“Oh, Faramir, Faramir,” he tutted. “Don’t you remember? It was I who put that scarf on her neck in the first place.”
“Oh, yes, I remember! It was Thorongil who mended her!”
I heard him smile as he spoke.
“No, but he found a man who did. Oh, but you cried when she got broken. You screamed and you shrieked. I had to do something about it.”
“You pulled me out from under the table and sang your silly ‘roses ‘tween the toeses’ song… An odd thing, my lord- what I can’t remember was whether I was her father or her mother. Perhaps I had been too young to understand such a question. I do vaguely remember Boromir asking me; and asked me: ‘Do you mean to nurse the babies then, when you are a man? Who will fight orcs? Will your wife do it, will she’”” A snort of laughter above me.
“I see that that one sorted itself out,” he said.
“Yeees, my lord. Ah, beautiful Faramira,” I stopped, and puzzled a minute. “I wonder how she got broken. I was usually careful with my things.”
The laughing stopped.
“What?” I said.
“Your father- knocked her on the floor, from a chair. I’m sure he didn’t think she’d break like that. He was almost as upset as you were, though you wouldn’t have noticed at the time.”
“Oh. Yes, I remember. It was just irritating him the way I would carry her round…” Never mind all that. I brightened. “Then the next day I was- well I’m not sure what I was doing-“
“You were hiding in a cupboard, as I recall. I don’t know why.”
“- and suddenly the door opened, and Thorongil thrust in Faramira, and said: ‘There you go; your baby’s all healed. Just leave that scarf alone, and she’ll be fine.’ Though he didn’t need to put it that way. I did know she wasn’t really a baby,” I stopped, because the one I had called Thorongil was up there laughing. “I don’t know whether I ever thanked him.”
“You didn’t at the time,” he said. “But a few days later I was in a counsel room; I felt a tap on my leg when there was only a curtain behind me. Then I looked, and I saw a pair of grey eyes very low down; and a voice whispered: ‘Thank you,’”
“Er, no. But you did say it.”
“Good. I’m glad I did it, even if I was hiding at the time.”
“You did do that rather a lot, I seem to remember.”
“I think I just liked it; finding a little private space where nobody knew I was…”
I remember something that cannot be. I remember running into my Mother’s room once and hiding under the bed. It had a frilled sheet to it, which made the underneath of the bed a secret little tent. I remember looking out, and seeing… a pair of dark blue, ladies’ shoes, not on the floor, but in mid-air, at the top of my field of vision. Then I heard the nurse coming, so I ducked back under the bed. But when the nurse came in, she stopped calling me. I heard her go and come back with others, and a confusion of moving furniture about went on in the room.
When I heard them go, I came out. I was about to run out when I heard footsteps walking up and down outside the door.
I turned, looking for an escape route… and saw that Mother was lying there upon the bed, asleep.
I liked Mother. She never said very much to me, but when I came to her she would sit me on her lap and put her arms about me, and the nurse would leave us both alone.
I said: “Mother?” and touched her hand; but the hand was cold, and stiff, and she didn’t wake up.
Her face was very pale, and I could see… what? Around the inside of her collar, a nasty, sore mark, all round her neck, about an inch thick, like a stain from the juice of blackcurrants. Poor Mother! She’d hurt herself!
I remembered the scarf that Thorongil had used to cover Faramira’s marks when she had hurt her neck; and, in a few minutes rummaging in Mother’s dresser drawer, I found one of grown-up size.
I was afraid that Mother would wake as I put it on, and ask me what on earth I was doing. But she didn’t.
I tied it, like Faramira’s, and I kissed her face.
“That will make your poor neck feel better, Mother.” I said.
But she didn’t look any better.
I heard the door open; and I saw my father, standing there. I saw him look at the drawer with all the things turned out onto the floor. I saw him look at Mother, and me stroking the scarf around the hurt on her neck.
I looked at his face. And I saw that he was not angry in a way that I had every seen him before. He was not going to start grumbling or shouting. He wasn’t about to say anything at all. I could not read his face.
Suddenly I was unbearably frightened. I wasn’t about to get an ordinary beating. He was going to take a ferula to me. Or he was going to beat me with his staff, the end with the knob on it.
“Go to your nursery, Faramir,” he said.
“You heard what I said! Go!”
I went and sat on my bed, and waited. He did not come. In time Nana Tibalt came to me, and told me that Mother had taken very ill, and…
“Well, it is nice to know that our little porcelain friend is still safe- but we have a journey to make in the morning, my friend.”
“Too true, my lord, too true. I’m sorry if I kept you from your bed…”
“Oh, not at all, not at all. You should be in bed yourself, my Steward. It will not do for you to appear bleary-eyed in the morning?”
“My lord, I am not drunk,”
“Of course you’re not, Faramir. I wouldn’t imply that you were,”
I remember something that cannot be. I remember the thud of my knees on the ground, and vomit in my mouth. I remember crying out: “ Not again, she, too, not all three, not now, not now! Not now, not all three! Oh, a thousand lies and courtesies, not to have that now!
“Mother- Father- Éowyn, and her mother- and, Eru knows it, me, in my time! It is in the blood, my lord, in the blood! Oh, what are we about to do?”
I cannot have felt an arm about my shoulders, heard a mere thought of: “First Ecthelion, then Gonder, now this! Oh, forgive me, unhappy ghost of a father, I fear I must grieve you again!”, nor the rag upon my lips, or heard: “It’s alright. Cry, if you will,”
I caught the smell of pipeweed-smoke on the way upstairs to my chamber; and there he was, almost hidden against the wall of the corridor; I didn’t see him almost until his face was at my shoulder- the surprise made me almost miss my footing.
“Steady,” he said. “There’s a step there, friend.”
“I had seen it my lord, thank you.”
“Well I nearly didn’t this morning. I didn’t want you to appear black and blue before your bride-to-be, after all.”
“No, my lord.”
“You realise you will be expected to drink enough to make you at the very least unsteady when you are in Rohan,”
“I shall try to decide upon a suitable level of unsteadiness to attain, my lord.”
“Goodnight, then, my lord.”
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.