“Look, Farry! A hedgepig. There by the wall.”
“Farry is a baby name. Don’t call me that.” They were supposed to be studying. It was a beautiful autumn day. The walled garden of the King’s house was filled with crisp-warm air and the rich smell of fallen leaves. Boromir had persuaded their tutor to let them read outside that afternoon. They had gone to their favorite spot where two stone benches faced each other under an ancient elm.
Faramir was sitting on one bench, bent dutifully over a book of Gondorrim history. Boromir, impatient with scholarship at the best of times, had abandoned his natural history text and his bench to pursue more direct means of learning on the other side of the garden.
He turned from his study of the hedgepig to face his younger sibling, surprise written on his face.
Faramir put down his book. “I’m ten years old,” he said, “don’t call me ‘Farry’ any more.”
“What should I call you, then? I’m your brother.” Boromir cocked his head and looked closely at the small boy sitting on the bench, as surprised as if one of his bitch Redlund’s fat puppies had suddenly turned and bitten him. “‘Faramir’,” he continued in a deep and portentous tone, “sounds like what our Father calls you when he disapproves of something. Besides, Mother always called you Farry.”
“I know, but she’s gone.” The boy’s face was white and miserable. Boromir’s brow furrowed in concern, and he walked over quickly to sit on the other bench. Their mother had died five years before, when he was just the age Faramir was now. Of course they both missed Finduilas. She had been the warmth in their lives to counter Denethor’s coldness, the merriment that balanced their father’s reserve. Faramir had little memory of her, as far as Boromir knew. He had tried to act as that balance for his brother after she died, to give him the love and companionship that the Steward seemed to withhold. Feeling inadequate to the task, as usual, he reached out and put his hand on Faramir’s arm.
“What is wrong?”
The boy’s mouth tightened and he ducked his head, his long, dark hair veiling his face. “She’s gone, and you’ll be gone soon.”
So that was it. It was true. He was leaving next week for Osgiliath, his first training post in Gondor’s army. Faramir had seemed as excited as he when they had laid out the new uniform and all its accouterments in Boromir’s room. It was an apprenticeship both had eagerly anticipated. Faramir would be following him into that service in five years time. They had talked excitedly of valour and honour and glory. But not of parting.
“I will be home often, at Yule if not before.”
“It won’t be the same.”
Boromir hesitated, then softly said, “I know. But you will be a soldier yourself soon enough. We’ll defend Gondor together.”
Faramir nodded, still not looking up.
Boromir looked at the bowed head and the slumped shoulders, and his heart contracted with sorrow. He had not thought of what it would be like for Faramir here alone, with only his books and tutor and a demanding father for company. His throat tightened.
He cleared it impatiently, sat up straighter and said, “I beg your pardon, brother, for my heedlessness. Since you will be a soldier soon yourself, I should have accorded you the dignity that is your due.”
Faramir looked up, his eyes narrowed and wary.
“I am in earnest,” Boromir insisted. “You must carry on here for a while, and that will be a hard enough task. I still insist that ‘Faramir’ is too formal between brothers, though. You need a new name, just between us.”
“What shall it be then?” the boy asked eagerly.
Boromir thought for a moment, hoping some inspiration would come to him, something that would ease his brother’s pain, a name that would serve him as he dealt with the difficulties that surely lay ahead.
Suddenly Boromir smiled. He reached down beside the stone bench and lifted up a feather that had fallen in amongst a drift of golden leaves. It was long and beautiful and shiny-black.
He held the feather out to Faramir. “May I call you Raven?” he asked. “Mother always said that ravens were the most intelligent of birds. People often overlook them because they have no bright colors, but they are quick and loyal and brave. Just like you, brother. And they look after each other.”
The boy smiled and said, “I am Raven then!” He suddenly threw himself toward Boromir in a joyful embrace that knocked him off the bench. They fell, laughing, onto the red-gold carpet of leaves.
After that day, he was always Raven in Boromir’s thoughts, and in speech when they were alone. Faramir kept the feather in the middle of the shelf beside his bed, the one constant in the collection of books, rocks, carvings and musical instruments that changed with the years.
Early one summer morning, many years later, Faramir sat on the same stone bench in the garden. Boromir would leave within the hour for a journey fraught with peril, seeking help from the elves of Imladris against a shadow that threatened to engulf Gondor and all that they loved. Through the years, this had become their place to say good-bye, away from prying eyes. Faramir had been here since before dawn, knowing that Boromir would come without his asking it for a final farewell.
He heard footsteps on the path near the house, then Boromir was before him. He was clad for the journey in mail and leather, his sword hanging from his belt. He sat down on the other bench, facing Faramir, and smiled.
“You are ready, I see,” Faramir said.
Boromir nodded. They had talked late into the night the night before. Words seemed to have deserted him now.
Faramir reached into his tunic and pulled out the raven’s feather he had kept all these years. He held it out to Boromir. “Take it with you. Since I cannot share the journey, take it as a talisman.” He blushed, embarrassed at how superstitious he felt about this journey, but determined that Boromir would carry the feather with him.
Boromir took it and drew the crisp pinion through his fingers. Still without speaking, he tucked it into his inner tunic, next to his heart. He stood and kissed Faramir’s forehead. Then he was gone.
Five years had passed. It was the fourth day of the month of July. Every year on this day, Faramir tried to spend some time alone. This was the day Boromir had ridden out from Minas Tirith, never to return to the White City, except perhaps in spirit. In past years, Faramir had always climbed the Tower of Ecthelion and looked down the road Boromir had traveled, looked at the Anduin where last he had seen his brother’s form, beautiful and at peace.
Peace. He had found peace in some measure, but he still missed his brother sorely. He had avoided the garden where they spent so many happy times. Five years had passed. Today, as he started to climb the Tower steps, he hesitated, then turned away. Now he sat on the stone bench, eyes closed, awash in memories.
Suddenly he heard the rustle of wings in the tree above him. It sounded like a large bird. Hawks did not usually come into the garden, but perhaps.... He opened his eyes and looked up, but could see nothing. Then he looked down. There, on the bench beside him, rested a feather. Long, glossy, and ink-black. He reached out to touch it and smiled.
Author's note: This story is set in fileg's rich and lovely imaginative universe, which she generously gives others permission to play in from time to time. I have been struck since I first read it of her designation of Boromir and Faramir as the Blade and the Raven. I wrote this little story for her, and she has kindly allowed me to let it fly into the universe. It is an alternate version of something she may tell us the authoritative version of one of these days.
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.