Stewards of Gondor: Genverse Arc
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Father and Sons: 10. From These Dreams...
"There is but one explanation!" Faramir declared, pacing the confines of his brother's room in a most unusual show of frustration and anxiety. After the interview with Denethor, the walk back to Boromirs chambers had been silent, but his brother's cold anger had been palpable, and every movement bespoke barely restrained wrath. That was enough to unsettle anyone who knew Faramir, and Boromir frowned from his place by the hearth, drumming his fingers on his belt. Given the stakes and his brother's tension, he was too restless to sit, and yet he felt obscurely as though he dared not move overmuch. As if we stand upon a wire, and too much movement will plunge us both into the chasm below! Why did we never think to discuss who might undertake this errand? And though the steward's heir recognized that their father's question had been merited, it could not have been more divisive if Denethor had crafted it for years. For the first time, the brothers each felt as though they were competing for a favor from their father, and though they fought that sentiment, their resistance to it was lessened by the need that drove them both. "Boromir!" His brother paused now before him and grasped his shoulders, expression sharp and eyes intent. "I have searched that library as well as I know how, I have sought every account dealing with either Isildur or Imladris or the Gladden Fields and I have found nothing. Nothing at all! Do you not see it?"
"See what?" Boromir demanded, trying to rein in his sharp tone and failing. For he had no idea what the other meant by such a question, and his own ignorance before his brother felt threatening today.
"It would help if I knew the question," Boromir growled, pinning his brother under a frustrated glare.
Faramir's lips thinned as he pressed them hard together, searching the other's face briefly ere he drew a deep breath and replied, "Where could our father have found information about Imladris? And whence might come any knowledge of Isildur's fate? If it is not in the general records, then there is but one place left to look." Faramir paused expectantly again, and Boromir blew out a sigh.
"And where, pray tell, might that be?" he asked.
"Among Mardils Books, the private collection of the stewards that one may access only with our father's permission," Faramir replied grimly. His hands on Boromir's arms tightened as he stared at him, and Boromir closed his eyes a moment in disgusted resignation.
"And you have not his permission!"
"Of course not," Faramir replied bitterly. "What reason would I have to require such material? If anyone has managed to extract such rights from the steward since Mithrandir's last visit, I have not heard of it. And if Father sought to deny a wizard, then he certainly would not permit a son whom he has already twice refused!"
"And he has now no reason to let me in either, or I might have tried," Boromir said, shaking his head slowly.
"He knows more than he tells, as is ever the case," the younger man said, resuming his agitated pacing. "But not enough, I would wager my life. Someone must go to Imladris if we are to learn the meaning of this damnable verse!" The curse sounded explosiveperhaps because Faramir so rarely profanedand punctuated the other's fervor with an almost frightening determination. Normally, Boromir would have tried to calm his brother, to ease his concern, but today he held back. It was not in him to give with one hand only, and the left at that; and if he comforted Faramir now, he would feel as though he deceived him. For as Faramir locked eyes with Boromir once more, there shone in them clear purpose to find some way to Imladris a purpose reflected in Boromir's eyes as well. Desire mirrored by each, desire claimedownedin spirit so thoroughly that the tension between them seemed as a tangible thing. And though it troubled Boromir that they worked now against each other in what ought to be a common cause, he could not surrender to the supplication that edged into the other's glance. For though Boromir had not the faintest idea what Isildur's Bane might be, the very fact that it had earned that name made it more dangerous than any weapon he knew of. And that makes it my errand to discover this thing and not Faramir's! It is too dangerous, and upon it hinges the fate of Gondor. If Father claimed the task, perhaps I might accede, but if he does notas I know he shall notthen it falls to me. Faramir may never forgive me that, but I shall risk it.
Very likely, Faramir had read his thoughts as they stared, motionless, at each other, for the light in those grey eyes flickered. Then his brother straightened and shook his head slightly, as if in frustrated denial. "Boromir, how can you consider leaving Gondor on the brink of war? Your place is here!"
"Is it? This dream concerns all of our fates! How could I remain, knowing that?"
"Father needs you," the other retorted. "What use has he for me? Ithilien is but one company, and one badly reduced at that! It will be slow to recover, for men with the necessary skills grow scarce, but even so, Anborn could hold it together in my absence. It is a matter of logistics as much as of manpower, and I can make the equation stretch far enough to cover us. Can you say the same?"
"Faramir, I will not be surprised if father disperses the Osgiliath company, for there is no longer anything of value to protect there. Indeed, I know not what made him hold onto it for so long. If I have no company, then I can scarcely be accused of deserting my command!"
"Gondor's army is your command: from Osgiliath to Ithilien, from Poros to Anórien, your word is law after Denethor's! That is written into your commission, and every steward's heir has borne that responsibility since Mardil Voronwë!" Faramir countered. "If you leave Gondor, you desert your post. Whereas if I go, I leave behind nothing that cannot be safely and legally entrusted to another. Moreover, I am only a second son. If aught happens to me, the chain of succession is in less jeopardy, for Father confides little in me, but all in you. Should you come never back, the gap in my knowledge might be fatal to Gondor, surely you see that!"
"No, I do not! Denethor may speak with you less about such matters, but I know you better. If aught were to happen to meand we know not what the future brings! Either of us could have died at Osgiliath when the bridge fell, or I might break my neck tomorrowyou would become the steward's heir whatever the state of your knowledge. That you live is part of the reason why it would be safe enoughor at least, as safe as anything is in such times as thesefor me to leave."
"Boromir, were I to show you a plan for battle that relied on such reasoning, you would rebuke me for ignoring logic! Would you risk us all simply because there is a chain of command, however weak?"
"'Tis hardly the risk you paint it, brother, for I know you better. I could leave Gondor in no better hands than yours under Denethors guidance, for I would trust no other above you," Boromir replied, reaching out to grasp the other by the shoulders and give him a shake. "If there is aught that concerns me here, it is your own low opinion of yourself in this matter. And if you would not trust yourself to hold command over all of Gondor, then how can you ask me to trust you with the future of the realm as it lies hidden in this rhyme?"
Faramir tensed at that, and there was genuine anger as both brothers stared at each other, seeking some sign of yielding, perhaps. But as before, neither was willing to surrender. At last, though, Faramir sighed softly and gripped his brothers wrists as he shook his head. "This argument gains us nothing, and it goes no where. In the end, it is Denethor who shall decide which of us shall goassuming he does not simply give the chore to another! I doubt either of us shall find any arguments to persuade him as to who ought to be sent, for as in all other matters, he shall keep his own counsel. As shall we, I think, for I do not wish to argue with you!" And with that, Faramir gently broke his brothers grip, taking a step backward and sliding his hands down Boromirs arms to grasp his brothers hands firmly. "Are we agreed in that at least?"
Boromir grunted, managing a slight half-smile, and he nodded. "Agreed! Let us not then speak of it again, save only if either of us have some insight as to the meaning of the rhyme."
"Then I shall not speak of it, for I have done all that I know how to do," Faramir replied, sounding rather disgusted yet resigned nonetheless. Releasing his brother, he ran a hand through his hair and stalked to the center of the room ere he sighed and turned round again. Raising his hands in a defeated gesture, he concluded in a tone and manner that bespoke his utter frustration, "And yet that is not enough!"
"Let it lie, then," Boromir said, shrugging and feeling a bit helpless before his brothers gloomy mood, for he knew not how to lighten it nor what to say to counter such self-deprecating sentiments. Usually it was Denethor who inspired such self-doubt, and Boromir had learned as a boy what Faramir needed to hear in order to step out from beneath their fathers shadow. But when he drives himself to such a bleak state without any help at all from the steward, I fear I know not what to do! That only fed his own restlessness, and after another moment, he gave in to the impulse and began pacing, though as slowly as possible. "What think you of this council that father has summoned?" he asked by way of half-desperate diversion. "Even Imrahil shall be there, if I read the dispatches aright."
"To me, it bodes ill. Imrahil has long been an advisor of this realm, but I have seen our uncle very seldom since I went away. And I think he has not been so frequent a visitor in Minas Tirith in the past five years. What say you? You have been in the city more often than Ihas he come to see the steward more frequently than I think?"
"Nay, he has not. And I should say it was closer to eight years ago that the break began to make itself felt in earnest or at least, that is when I first remarked it with concern. Father and he had an argument then. Over what, even I know not, but however secret it was, and however civil they were to each other afterwards, it soon spread throughout the upper circles that somewhat had happened between them. After that, Imrahil came more seldom to Minas Tirith, preferring to send his views by letter instead. Of late, even that correspondence has declined, and it seems to me that he saves his advice for greater matters, for his letters come ever at the clinch of crisis, as it were," said Boromir.
"I did not know," Faramir admitted, frowning. "I always assumed that as the times grew worse, he dared not leave Dol Amroth for very long, or very often. Once again, no one tells me of such matters; I had to ask Húrin outright about our fathers strange mood of late!" The younger man shook his head, folding his arms over his chest as he walked a few paces back to the hearth, there to lean on outstretched arms against the mantle while he stared into the flames. "So why has Imrahil been summoned?"
"Who can fathom Fathers mind at times? This will likely be the last gathering of the Lords of Gondor ere winter and you know our straits!"
"Aye, I know them, but I doubt me that Imrahils presence shall improve them by any considerable measure. I suppose that father looks to fulfil the letter of the law."
"Perhaps," Boromir allowed. "But many are they who would know more of Dol Amroths position, and not simply through pieces of paper handed to the steward." Faramir grunted softly, seeming to acknowledge the truth of that statement. Boromir chewed the inside of his lip, debating with himself a moment, staring at Faramirs back. "In truth, I shall be glad to see him, for the council respects him and looks to him for other views other opinions."
"I doubt our uncles opinion shall differ from the main this time! What, after all, could he say that would make our situation less black? But I, too, shall be happy to greet him once more, for it has been long since last we saw each other. And he exerts a calming influence on the councilors, unlike Father!" Faramir said, turning to set his back against the mantle, watching his brothers reaction to that criticism. Boromir seemed to want to object to his characterization of Denethor, but after but a few moments, he grimaced and bowed his head, raising a hand slightly to acknowledge the truth of those words. Outside, the bells tolled out the hour: one, two, three . Mid-afternoon, and already the day feels old, Boromir thought. His thoughts drifted back to Osgiliath, where the remainder of his company and a part of Faramirs still kept guard amid the ruins. The worst of the wounded had been moved from the camp hard upon Faramirs heels, and tomorrow, those with lighter, yet still serious, injuries would be sent back to Minas Tirith. As for the rest . They are alone in this, and I can only hope that nothing more shall happen there! Boromir sighed inwardly, wishing that he could have remained with them. "Well," Faramirs voice broke the silence that had fallen, and his older brother blinked, focusing once more on the others face. "Since father bade us prepare for this session, I shall take my leave to learn what I may. I have far more news to catch up on than do you, after all!"
"Come find me later this evening. If we must stay here, we can at least break bread in safety for once."
"I should think you would eat with Father, though," Faramir reminded him, cocking a dark brow at him. "It is your first night back home, after all."
"Then join us!"
"If he sends for me, then I shall. Otherwise, and meaning no offense, I shall fend for myself 'til the morrow. Perhaps then ." Faramir shrugged. But behind his apparently easy acceptance of his rejection, Boromir felt the others hurt, and he silently cursed himself for a fool for having brought up the matter.
"Very well. Tomorrow then, and use well the time!"
"I shall, have no fear. Good night, Boromir," Faramir replied, and went silently on his way. But just ere he closed the door behind him, he seemed to cast a last, backward glance at Boromir. And though he also had much to do to obey their fathers command, Boromir stood long in silence, pondering the significance of that brief regard, and wondering just how good a strategist Faramir might be.
"If I can convince Denethor to let me in to search Mardils Books, will you tell me what to look for? Or rather, where to look?"
Faramir sighed softly as he laid his head in his hands, leaning on his elbows as he sat across from Boromir. He had not intended to have lunch with his brother; in fact, he had not planned to eat at all. But Boromir had caught him between Húrins home and Lord Amdils and, with a combination of verbal persuasion and an arm round his shoulders that would not allow him to consider moving in the opposite direction, had steered him toward the nearly empty officers mess. The two of them had found a place in the corner and for a time, they had talked of Gondor and Rohan, of their uncle (who was due to arrive the next evening) and old Forlong of Lossarnach, and even (to Faramirs surprise) of the mystery surrounding the light in the tower. Given Boromirs most recent question, however, Faramir wondered that he had not perceived his brothers intention earlier. And what does it mean that he asks this question, when already we know that neither of us shall be allowed within that vault? he wondered. Aloud, he said only, "I thought we had agreed yesterday to let fall that matter between us!"
"On the assumption that we had no new insight into it, yes, we did. But what if we could learn more?"
"We shall not," Faramir said flatly, without looking up. "Denethor knows now what we seek, he shall not permit either of us to learn enough independently of him to perhaps threaten his control of the situation. You know this as well as I do, Boromir!"
"But if ."
"Boromir," Faramir cut him off and lowered his hands, leaning forward to gaze directly into the others eyes. "Hear me! Nay, listen to me! I have tried for many years to get a glimpse of Mardils Books. Only once was I able to enter the room where they were housed, and only because I was, unbeknownst to Father, in Mithrandirs company. At the time, I was all of thirteen, and though all things seem larger at that age, the stewards collection is vast and difficult to decipher. Mithrandir stayed but a little while and would not let me touch anything, nor move too freely about the room. Some things there are that are dangerous to the uninitiated, he said. You are too young yet for such secrets! So, assuming that either of us could search the collection, I would not be able to tell you the lay of the room, nor begin to catalogue its contents. And in any case, 'tis futile to ask! I know not what art Mithrandir has to have persuaded Denethor to allow him a second and a third visit, but certainly no other has managed to wrest permission from the steward since then."
"Say for a moment that that were not the case," Boromir replied, attempting to circumvent Faramirs refusals with a hypothesis. "If he were to let either of us in, what would you look for there?"
His brother blinked, then gave a slight shake of his head as if in surprised consideration, and he gazed down at the floor. Long lashes partially hid his eyes, but Boromir could see their motion, as if Faramir were mentally reading something, or else wandering through the library of his mind, seeking answers to who knew how many questions in that moment. After a long pause, the other sighed softly and shook his head, as if in resignation, saying, "In that case, I should seek scrolls or volumes concerning the end of the Second Age. We know that Elrond Half-elven was Gil-galads herald, but he fought his first significant battle in his own name in Eregion. That much I know, and that he retreated to a high place in the Misty Mountains for a time until the high king could bring relief. After that, he marched with the Last Alliance into Mordor. What became of him afterwards, I cannot say, though I guess now that that refuge in the mountains may well be Imladris. But until Father told me of his association with that name, it had never entered my mind that Imladris and that hide-away might be one and the same place."
"Why should you have?" Boromir asked, trying to ease the self-recrimination in the others tone.
"Because in the end, it is the solution that fits best the limited state of our knowledge. And yet I could not see it. I should have, though!" Faramir still sounded frustrated with himself, and Boromir reached across the table to give him a slight shake.
"Stop this nonsense! What is Elrond to us today but a figure of legends? Who would guess that such still walked ." he trailed off, for though Boromir had never loved history overmuch, he knew far more than enough to realize how ridiculous that sounded.
"Say we who live daily in the shadow of just such a legend!" Faramir finished for him, offering a crooked smile. "Another play, and the Nameless One wins another piece: we, who by blood and choice, ought most to reverence and ally ourselves with the ancient enemies of the Dark Lord scarcely think of them. Indeed, we can barely comprehend a time when the Elves stood alongside us, fast-bound to Númenor as brothers. Elrond is a legend, we say, yet Mithrandir and Cúrunir both admit that he was instrumental in driving the Dark Lord from his hiding place in Rhovanion."
"That was fifty years ago!" Boromir protested.
"And well within our fathers life time. Another ten years, brother, and you shall see that age yourself; and yet we still account one who lives to see five decades in the prime of his life. What is fifty years to one of Númenorean descent, much less to an Elf?"
At which point, Boromir frowned, sensing that he was being led aside from his original inquiry. Eyeing his brother closely, he demanded, "Will you help me try to get in to search Mardil's Books or not?"
"For all that Father loves you, Boromir, and bends more easily to your suggestions and supplications than ever he did to mine, I would sooner look to see the king return than expect you to gain entrance to the stewards collection," Faramir replied, finishing his ale. "Good day, Boromir." He rose, then, and stared down at his brother considerately for a time ere he turned away, making as if to leave.
"You did not answer my question," Boromir called after him, keeping his tone carefully neutral. Faramir paused and glanced back over his shoulder.
"What question was that?"
"Were it not impossible to view Mardils Books, would you help me?" To Boromirs mind, Faramir hesitated briefly, but that hesitation seemed to contain less surprise than simple reconsideration.
Whatever had factored into that minute pause, it was with eyes quite inscrutable that his brother pinned him and said simply, but with quiet finality, "No."
And then he left, leaving Boromir to stare after him with narrowed eyes. He was of half a mind to follow Faramir, or continue to argue with him for his help, for Boromir would need it. But for the moment, his brother was far enough away that to call him back might create a scene. And if he does not wish to help me, I suppose I cannot blame him for that. Not when we both doubt the other's intentions in this matter.Well, we shall see whether that doubt is warranted, I suppose. For soon enough, I shall learn the truth all the truth, if I can manage it!
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