Faramir's hands suddenly stopped while fumbling through a stack of parchment leaves and he turned toward the sound. The tautness of his shoulders slowly relaxed, though not completely, after he realized the reason of the disturbance. "Mithrandir," he said, "do come in. It is good to see you, although I had not expected a visit from you today. Master Peregrin was here earlier and said you would oblige them with some story-telling and explaining."
"Aye, that one's curiosity cannot be quenched. I'm afraid I shall never be able to answer all of his questions, much though I tried; it would take me a full age, or more, and I do not expect to be around here for that long." Gandalf paused and looked pointedly at the other, "He reminds me of someone else I know." Faramir smiled slyly then, rose, cleared a chair of the books and scrolls piled on top of it and invited him to sit, at which he replied, "So, you think me old?"
"Nay, my friend; not at all. But, methinks you have not come here just in passing, in which case you had better sit."
"Indeed," was all Gandalf said, and sat. Faramir, however, remained standing and took his place next to a bookshelf from which he overlooked a wide window. The young man adjusted the neck of his shirt, ran a hand through his hair, all the while twisting his ring about his finger, regarding Gandalf with a strange mix of interest and expectation that could not be disguised. Had Faramir guessed the purpose of his visit? "Of all places, this is the last where I would've hoped to find you. There is a beautiful day outside and I thought you might use it to enjoy yourself, at least for a while," Gandalf began as he had essayed and waited to measure Faramir's reaction. "There are chances for pleasure, you know, even in the middle of one's duties."
"That I know, and Valar, my duties are many." His lips twitched in a brief display of mirth and he glanced away where daylight spilt itself upon all corners of a city that had too long been shrouded in darkness. "That is just why I chose to come here instead, today, while the sun shines bright and my heart is lighter. I cannot put this off forever, and I fear that if I do not see to it now, I shall never do it."
"Very much like your father, to shut yourself away from the truth, from the inevitable, all the while thinking that you are facing it, is it not so?" The words brought the desired effect: Faramir leaned forward and raised both eyebrows, the eyes widening. Then, suddenly, he leaned back against the wall and let out a laugh.
"You may say so, yes! My father had a tendency to put everything away, did he not? Though he was quicker than I am, and faced no remorse or guilt at it." He sighed and looked around, "I know not why I have delayed to put his things away and bring out mine. Avoiding the truth as Father did? I couldn't say; I suppose I may have inherited similar inclinations, though I may have put them to other ends."
"Maybe, and maybe not." Gandalf's stare fixed on Faramir, attempting to recollect in that moment every occasion when he had seen that look of surprise, confusion, curiosity in the boy's face, or in the man's. "And now that you have finally decided to go about this business, what is it you seek here? When you mumble to yourself, are you trying to figure something you know not? What do you hope to find concealed in every object you touch, in every page you read, in every letter, every corner of this room?"
Faramir breathed deep and pressed his palms against the wall to his back, biting his lip and looking away. "I think that is what you have come here to tell me." He turned and gave Gandalf one of the most desperate stares he had ever encountered. "I know not for what I seek! I seek for the truth."
"Truth! And, where lies truth but in oneself? And yet, the knowledge of it may be more bitter than a half-swallowed lie." Gandalf rose and walked toward him, put both hands on his shoulders and squeezed tightly. "Do you seek for the truth? Do you want it, with all that it implies?"
"I need it," Faramir said, and then shook his head. "If I find it not, the ghosts of these memories will choke me, and I fear I shall be lost. I would not be lost now; not after I have found hope again."
"Alas, for I have put this off for far too long. It reminds me of someone else I know," he muttered and managed a slight, mirthless smile which he saw quickly mirrored on Faramir's face. "So, it seems that I have not come here just in passing, in which case you had better sit."
They sat facing each other but neither said a word. Gandalf had been on that room many times, with many Stewards and on many errands, but never had he felt his heart ache like it did then under Faramir's keen and pleading stare. The task before him was not one he liked, and it pained him to think that the truths he'd have to share would disturb his friend's mind and open wounds he had hoped would be healed. "This knowledge is your due, though I believe you have guessed much of it by now. It might be better if you tell me what you already know."
"I know many things, but not what I most desire to learn. I have guessed much from scattered bits of talk I have put together, as much as to know that he took his life purposefully and that there was a struggle, that his mood was greatly altered but that he had not seen the King yet and I have wondered at this, for what reason could he have then, to act as he did?" His gaze narrowed on Gandalf for a few moments before he continued, "When Uncle told me that Father had died, I sensed there were things he kept from me; his answers were short and evasive, and he looked me not in the eye, but I was weary and I felt lost and broken. I had not the strength or sense to delve deeper then, and I think he would not have said much."
"He would not, because such was my command to him and to Beregond and Pippin, who were also there during your father's latest moments."
"That would explain much." His brows gathered, but his eyes lighted upon the sudden revelation. "I knew Beregond had played a part. Instead of being at his post, he spent much of those first days with me, for which I will ever be grateful, but I sensed something was amiss. I read more in their silence than in any words they could have spoken and knew there was so much more of which I was unaware!" He pressed his fist against his knee and left it there, clenched. "Then you came to see me before departing toward the Black Gate and left me with even more doubts, lose ends that I could not tie for myself."
"Have you not tried, Faramir? And yet, will you not tell me that you have deliberately sought to avoid this conversation as much as you have sought to pursue it?" Their gazes clashed for a flicker of a moment. "You have been seeking to put together the pieces of an old puzzle, but still you search in all the wrong places! This room: you will find nothing too personal here that will tell you what you wish." He paused to take a breath. "It is much like you, and Denethor, to attempt at finding answers and gleaning truth by your own means, but in doing so you have wasted time hiding from it. So have I, for I have waited, thinking that you were not ready to hear, hoping, perhaps, to find a more fitting moment; yet what moment could be fitting to tell you that your father cast himself unto the fire giving up his duty and hope? You knew there was a fire. Did you know that you were also there?"
"But it cannot be. How? I did not-"
"You must also learn that since the moment the Prince brought you back from the battle, your father hardly left your side. He sat there, unmoving, clasping your fevered hand; but who knows what thoughts whirled inside his mind, what feelings stirred his heart which moved him to such rashness?"
"But what happened?"
"When Denethor purposed to burn himself he intended to take you along with him," Gandalf said at last. Faramir's breathing became uneven, his eyes so light that they seemed almost completely white, his face ashen but his knuckles reddened. "He was blind, Faramir; blinded by Sauron. He was convinced the end had come for both of you and all struggle was useless; if we were all going to burn either way, best to burn quicker. He thought he would not let anyone have him, or yourself, to boast over when everything was done, but thank the Valar we were able to save you; for once Pippin's good sense had not wholly deserted him, and Beregond bought us time by defying your father's guard." By then Faramir had lowered his gaze and stared at his trembling fingers. "He was not himself; the Dark Lord had robbed him of his reason. You see, in his despair, Denethor had dared use-"
"The palantír?" he finished the sentence with a question of his own, and Gandalf jerked back. "I was never sure, but I guessed it, and that now also makes sense. A strange light came from the top of the tower whenever he was there; I saw it a couple of times, and there were rumors in the city... and the things he knew! How else could he have learnt them?" He rose and walked toward the window, shaking his head. "I knew he hated me. When he sent me back to Osgiliath, I knew he had sent me to my doom, yet I could not... I even thought I deserved it! But I could not bring myself to hate him. He was-"
"He was your father, and deep in your heart you know that he did not hate you. His latest words were to speak of you. He felt regret, remorse, guilt at the manner of your parting, and felt it bitterly; think not that you were the only one."
Faramir then hit his fist against the wall and pressed his head upon it. From his seat, Gandalf saw slight tremors running through his back and shoulders and thought it better to let him grieve undisturbed, but it was not long before Faramir turned and walked back to kneel beside him. "Tell me this, Mithrandir," he began, his voice rising, the words mingling with each other. "Why I? Why? What was there in me that was so worth saving? Why did he want to take me, and why was I brought back?"
"Because of love. Because Pippin loved you, Beregond loved you, I loved you and," he looked straight to his eyes, "because your father loved you. In the end, he thought he had no other way of telling you than through fire." He felt a tight grip on his arm and saw a sudden color come to Faramir's pale face, but after a few moments the young man only nodded and rose. Gandalf also rose, sighed and placed his hands upon the other's shoulders.
"Thank you," Faramir whispered. "Thank you for your honesty and for ever being a friend, even to my father, though he knew it not."
"I believe this is the last piece your puzzle needed to be complete. You have seen the full picture now; it is time to let go. It is not with him that you need to make your peace, but with yourself. You may, at last, lay to rest the old ghosts and move on; after all, you remain."
"I remain," Faramir repeated softly, "I remain."
Gandalf then kissed him upon the brow and took his leave. Once he was at the hallway, he leaned on his staff and closed his eyes. The sound of muffled sobs reached him and he sighed heavily, but an unexpected hope was born in his heart and he smiled. Truth was sometimes a grievous but necessary evil, and one that Faramir had to experience before he could finally be at peace. After all, he remained and had won his battles against the enemy, against a fate that was not his to tread and against his own self, which was the hardest battle of all. With that thought in mind he sighed again, adjusted his hat and strode away.
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.