The barman has not changed much, a bit older perhaps. More grey hairs flecking the dark, added wrinkles to his brow that were not there the last time I raised a mug in his company. Could it be so long? I was here with Faramir and his troop only two months past. Or was it three?
The tankards foam as he puts them to the hand of each man, tradition that it must be the shield arm that raises the first toast though no one notices after a few rounds have passed. Aye, that one in the corner uses sword hand or shield arm indifferently, and the slurred speech tells of his lengthy devotion at this shrine to forgetfulness. No matter. He wears the badges of his service in scars upon cheek and hands—let him use what hand he will.
I walk through the ranks, past city guards, rangers, soldiers, messengers, their loud jokes mingling in smoky revelry. The singer before the fire knows what brings the best coin from this motley gathering, and has nothing but loud barracks tunes that catch the heart of all assembled here. I would add my voice to theirs, but in truth I have no great skill in singing; I have ever left music to Faramir when he wished to amuse us. Tonight, I listen as songs tell of faraway foes vanquished with mere thoughts and comrades saved from harm with feats that defy reason. “Our wars have left us little room for music and lore,” I hear you remind me, brother. Yet in this room there is music enough to cheer a forlorn soldier’s heart, and perhaps that is all the music wartime needs.
A laughing voice at a table behind me, and I turn, for I know its owner. Beregond! You owe me a tankard of mead, rascal. You spilt the last of the barrel we…appropriated…and claimed you would make good my loss in the affair at the next opportunity. Now may I enjoy the evening without opening my purse.
But as I move to stand at your elbow, you do not notice. My hand upon your shoulder brings no upward glance, no look of recognition. Nothing. The touch seems instead to quiet you, the laughter dying on lips now turned sad, somehow. And one of your companions, the stocky one, asks a question that chills. “How fares Captain Faramir? I’ve not seen him here since…. When I saw him yesterday, he looked through me as if he knew me not.” Your reply I barely catch. “He’s not well, since he saw the elven boat upon Anduin’s darkness. Hardly sleeps, takes little enough food to keep body and spirit alive.”
Not eating. Not well. Why, brother? You were well when I left for Imladris, though pained by our parting.
The stout man answers, “Faramir should not neglect himself. If he fails, the others”—and a handsweep takes in the whole room—“may lose heart.” And your reply, Beregond, cuts across the silence that follows. Cuts across more than silence. “When would you begin eating or sleeping again, if your only brother returned a corpse from battle and no explanation in the bargain?” A little angrily, you add, “He does not let it cloud his judgment where the men are concerned, Damrod. Give the man room to grieve. Aye, give us all time to grieve the loss of Gondor’s brightest sword.”
Standing up, you climb onto the bench and shout above the din so that all must hear. “Mugs at the ready, men? If there are men without, give them mead, Butterbur—I will stand their charges. A toast, men of Gondor! For a soldier’s soldier, a man I would have followed to the Black Gate and beyond. To Boromir!!”
With one voice, they roar their answer. “To Boromir!!”
And then, I remember.
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.