34. Third Age 3010
Indis walked through the dressing room and discovered Finduilas' brush and comb still upon the front table. Her decanters of perfumed water lined the back. Framed pictures that Boromir and Faramir had drawn lay in peace next to them. Why had Denethor left these things here? It seemed strange behavior indeed for a man who had removed all of Finduilas' clothes within days after she had died. Indis dared not remove anything.
Drawing in a sharp breath, she walked quickly to the little chair in the corner. Finduilas' cloak lay there, sad and forlorn. She held it before her. She remembered it too well and Finduilas' joy at the gift from Denethor. She did not remember Finduilas even living long enough to wear the beautiful garment. Indis fingered the stars lining the hem and tears fell.
Finduilas, one of her dearest friends, had succumbed to grief and fear, and now, it seemed, Morwen Steelsheen walked the same path. Somehow, she must convince her friend to move back to Minas Tirith, to the home that she loved so passionately. It was still empty. Indis had contracted landscapers to keep the garden tended and its fountain clean. It would take no time at all to air out the house and clean the rooms. Excitement filled her.
'Nay,' she stopped herself. 'It is not the house that she misses, nor Minas Tirith; it is Thengel. I cannot bring him back. What can I do for her? How am I to help her?' Head bowed in defeat, she turned to leave the room; the cloak, forlornly draped over the dressing chair, mocked her.
Denethor stood before her. "What are you doing here?" he asked, his voice holding a tone more of puzzlement than anger.
She stepped back. She could not remember why she had come into the dressing room. She had been in Finduilas' garden, weeding, and went to lave her hands and face in the bowl. That was it! There were no towels.
"I was looking for towels. My hands were soiled from weeding. Whoever last cleaned the bed chambers neglected to replace the dirty linens."
"Why were you weeding? Does not the gardener do that?" She looked down; pain crossed her face. "Never mind; I think I understand." He took her arm and gently led her out of the room. Closing the door, he locked it.
"Would you want me to clean out the room, Denethor? Some of the items could benefit the poor?"
He shuddered visibly. "I will have no one enter that room. Not even you." He turned and walked away from her.
'I do not know what to do,' she thought miserably. 'How can I help those I love when they refuse my help?'
She bumped into Arciryas in the hall. "My love," she cried. She wanted desperately to tell him how much she missed his presence in their bed, but she could not. The affairs of the Houses lay heavily upon him. He had slept with her a week a go. 'Nay, it was more like unto a fortnight.' As always, duty to Gondor superseded personal need. But her own heart was torn and she needed arms about her.
He bowed low. "I am sorry, my own. I have a meeting with the Steward. Mayhap we can daymeal tonight? Nay, I forgot. There is a special meeting regarding the Houses need for herbs. I must attend it. Then, I have something about the fever that might help us." She smiled, kissed him on his cheek, and let him pass. Tears fell. Unbidden.
'I will visit Adrahil,' Denethor thought. 'It has been o'erlong since I have seen Finduilas' father.' He could see Faramir, too, if the lad was not away on patrol. 'Not too transparent,' he thought wryly and laughed. 'I need to see him.' A sudden dread regarding Faramir had filled him, a fortnight ago, and he waited daily for a missive from Dol Amroth. But none came. Still, his heart misgave him. Try as he might, the Palantír would no longer show him his sons. 'My mind is surely too uneasy when I look for them. I must somehow find a way to compose myself before I touch it.' But he knew it was useless. When he had the globe in his hands searching for Boromir or Faramir, his heart beat wildly and his palms sweat. It was useless. Not since the attack of the Mûmak had he been able to see his sons.
Turning from the Tower, he walked to the Great Hall. There was no guard at the Great Door nor the Chamberlain at the entrance to the Hall. Anger flared, but Denethor stilled his heart and walked to the Chair. Pulling his cloak about him, he sat, plans for his trip filling his mind, his heart lightening.
Boromir was on duty at the fortress of Cair Andros; he expected him to return shortly. 'Should I ask him to accompany me? Yes! I will make it a state visit of sort.' His attention was drawn to a noise from the Hall to his left, the one that led to the Tower and meeting rooms. 'Finally, a servant deigns to attend me!'
Battle instinct saved him, but not the Chair. The Steward deftly ducked as the axe bit into the marble arm, sparks flying everywhere. He found himself upon the floor, rolling as far from his assailant as possible. He swore briefly, wishing he had his sword with him instead of this decorative piece of... With no more time to think as his attacker raised the axe over his head, he kicked with his feet and the thug fell, cracking his head on the floor. Denethor jumped up, but not quickly enough. The assassin was up before he could pull the useless sword. Wordlessly, he stepped to the side, ducked low to miss another blow, swung around and pulled the sword from its scabbard. Inching slowly backwards, towards the door, he held the sword before him, glaring at his opponent.
The face was covered in a black rag, the head also. 'Haradrim?' he wondered for a moment. Then, the thug was rushing towards him, axe high in the air, screaming invectives in Haradric. Denethor knew a few of the words, would have laughed at the inanity of the curses if he were not fighting for his life. Instead, he held his sword in front of him, waiting for the death lunge. The man fell forward, an arrow piercing his throat. Denethor collapsed backwards, carried by the weight of his enemy as he fell.
Hands quickly pulled the dead man off the Steward. Denethor waited for a moment, trying to catch his breath, but he could not seem to. His chest hurt mightily. He could not breathe. He looked up into Berelach's face, clutched his aide's hand, and felt no more.
"He gives up everything, Faramir, and for what! To sit at the base of a useless Throne!" Boromir stood by his father's bed, watching as Denethor struggled to breathe. The smell of herbs hung rank and heavy in the room.
Boromir had not changed from his riding attire upon arrival into Minas Tirith; he had done naught but ride directly from Cair Andros, as soon as the message was received, and found his way to his father's chambers. His anger was palpable. Seeing him laying there, the stalwart and indomitable Steward, as if dead, overwhelmed all sane thought.
"Boromir. The point is moot. Father has told you - we wait for the return of the king."
"What king?" Boromir spat. "There is none and there likely will be none. How long must we wait? How long have we waited? Is all the blood of the House of Húrin to be spent in vain?"
Faramir smiled. Boromir thought not of the Throne, Faramir knew, but his fear for his father took him places he should not go. "Come with me to the kitchen. Arciryas will send for us if we are needed."
They walked slowly down the steps and into the large, warm kitchen. Fresh bread for the morning sat, rising. The smell of yeast was heavy in the air. Faramir sneezed. He poured tea from an always-full kettle. Passing a cup to Boromir, he said, "Father has been wounded before, Boromir. He will recover. Not many have the strength nor the steel will that he has."
"I still do not understand how this happened? Was he in the practice yard?"
Faramir gulped and almost choked on the tea. "What were you told?"
Boromir stood, sensing that what he was about to hear was not good. "I received a missive stating that Father had been hurt and that I was needed. What else is there?"
"Standing will not help. Sit, please. I do not even know how to tell you."
Boromir sat, steeling himself for he knew not what, every fiber of his being held at attention.
"An assassin from Harad slipped into the Great Hall and attacked. Father would be dead now, if not for the shooting skill of Berelach. As it was, when the assassin fell forward, his axe glanced off him. One of the spikes on the axe head went into Father's chest. The wound is deep."
"Where were the guards?" Boromir asked incredulously. "The servants?" His voice was tight.
"We do not yet know. Húrin is questioning them."
Boromir stood and strode purposefully towards the door.
Faramir quickly stood in front of him. "There is naught you can do, Boromir. Let those in command finish the process. They know full well to report to you. All know you have returned home."
Boromir stood, feeling stricken and helpless. Faramir's look told him he understood. "I must go to him. I did not know." He fought back the tears. "You may stay here if you like, but I must."
Faramir smiled. "Of course. And I must go with you."
Indis sat quietly, watching as Boromir and Faramir entered their father's bedchamber. She stifled a sob as the tall, strong eldest fell to his knees at Denethor's bedside. "Father," she heard him call and saw the broad shoulders shake. "Father," he whispered again, but his voice broke and the sound echoed through the room. Faramir stood behind him, his hand on his brother's shoulder.
When there was no response, Boromir stood. As he turned to face Faramir, she was noticed. He strode quickly to her side, then knelt in front of her, taking her cold hands in his strong ones. Her heart soared to have them by her side once again. Too long had both boys been gone. Faramir knelt next to his brother.
"Amma," Boromir said, then buried his face in her lap. Uncontrolled sobs shook him. She put her hand lovingly on his head. Desperately she wanted to tell him all would be well. She could not. She knew Faramir understood her silence, for he too began to weep quietly.
After a moment, Boromir spoke. "Have we lost him, Amma?"
"Arciryas has done all in his power to save him, but now it is up to Denethor. He has been stronger this past year." She had never told them of their father's use of the Palantír. She had been grateful that Denethor had let it lie these last few months. It sapped his strength!
"Faramir, would you make us some tea?" She felt the anguish of the youngest, held back by the steel will that was so like his father's. He nodded, stood and walked to the fire.
She lifted Boromir's chin. "Your little brother suffers, also."
His grief-stricken eyes opened wide. "Of course."
Squeezing her hand gently, he stood and walked to the fire. Taking the kettle from Faramir's hand, he put it back on the hook. Faramir looked at him, perplexed; Boromir took him in his arms.
"Do you remember one time, little brother, when I held you like this and told you that you were my hope?"
Faramir nodded, tears spilling down his cheeks.
"I would be your hope this day. We will stay by Father's side, you and I, and our strength will give him the strength he needs. We will not lose him, Faramir."
Indis sighed and sat back in her chair, satisfied that the family stood strong.
The errand-rider came from Belfalas in the night. The Swan Banner flew as the horse galloped at a break-neck pace towards the Great Gate. The silver trumpets of Minas Tirith sang out, heralding the princely messenger. Boromir was first to enter the Great Hall; Faramir ran up shortly afterwards.
"The messenger has not arrived as of yet. Did we send a rider to Dol Amroth with news of Father's state?"
Faramir motioned to the Chamberlain who stepped forward and bowed. "Was an errand-rider sent to Dol Amroth?"
"Nay, my Lord, not that I know of. Only two were sent - one to you at Linhir and one to Captain Boromir at Cair Andros."
"Then the news must indeed be grave," Boromir said. He sat in his father's chair, arm resting easily on the marble surface. Faramir stood behind him. The youngest could hardly stand still; concern etched his features. Boromir knew his brother had grown closer than ever to the people of Belfalas since being stationed there these past six years. What event had caused a rider to be sent from Prince Adrahil to arrive in the middle of the night?
His chest hurt as he moved, trying to relieve whatever pressed down upon him, constricted his breathing, and caused him such pain. He felt her soft hand slide down from his ear to his chin and moaned.
"Finduilas," he whispered, "I have missed you." She hummed the little love song that was theirs. He wanted to open his eyes and watch her smile, but they felt so heavy. Her finger ran down his neck and he felt her hand rest on his chest. Sharp pain! She moved again and he was able to breathe once more. She kissed his ear and he smiled as tears rolled down his cheeks, joy suffocating him once again. When he came to, she was still with him.
"Do you remember our betrothal day? We said the vows in front of Father and you laughed. You were never more beautiful, Finduilas, 'cept when you birthed our sons. They are so beautiful. Boromir more like a warrior of old and Faramir like unto one of the Valar themselves."
Struggling with some tendril of memory, he tried again to open his eyes. They were too heavy. "I held you so close. I was afraid I had lost you. But you fought, Finduilas, you fought to stay with me."
His brow furrowed. "Finduilas," he called. "Finduilas!" But he had lost the scent of her perfume; her body warmth had left him. He tried to raise his hands to cup her face in them and kiss her sweet lips, but she had moved away from him. "Finduilas!" he called again and she touched his chest.
Fire and pain such as he had never felt before enveloped him. He could not breathe.
"Fear not, Lord Denethor, the worst is over. Rest gently now. Your family is with you."
'But no! She is gone!' Great tears fell and stole his breath and darkness came.
"You must go, Faramir. You have been stationed there these past six years. Her people know you. There is none who will represent Gondor better."
"Amma should go!"
"Nay! She cannot. I would. I really would take your place for I know your heart will be here at Father's bedside, but I cannot. I must stay as heir and you must go."
"I will not," Faramir said stubbornly. "If he wakes and finds me gone... or if he - he..."
"He will understand - and approve! He knows duty, Faramir." A smile unbidden split his face. "Of all of us, he knows duty. Please, Faramir, we have no time for this. Uncle Imrahil and the southern fiefdoms need you at the burial. And think of young Elphir. He worships you. He will need you by his side, with Grandfather gone. Do you not realize that the country is in deep mourning? And they do not even know of Father's injury. How will it seem to the lords of Belfalas, Anfalas and Lossarnach, Lamedon and Lebennin if none from the Steward's family attend the burial? You must see that fear and despair will fill our land with both leaders..." Boromir's brow rose in consternation. He put his hands to his face, rubbing his forehead with force. "You must see that you are the one who must go?"
Faramir knew every word that Boromir spoke was true, but still he could not bring himself to leave. "Boromir. Did you not see Father the last time we were with him? He was in such turmoil. I could not bear it if he... I could not bear it, Boromir."
"I promise, Faramir, I promise to hold him until you return. He will not leave us." And Faramir believed him because he must and Boromir wondered, if their father died, would Faramir ever believe his beloved brother again?
While Faramir had been stationed at Dol Amroth, Imrahil had asked him to guide Elphir, when the young prince's time as esquire was complete. Faramir had been delighted. He had taken the young man under his wing. He smiled at the appropriateness of the phrase. The young Swan of Dol Amroth had become his responsibility. They had spent the last three years together, in mischief, joy, sorrow, and battles beyond telling, with Denethor's permission, for almost anything Imrahil asked of the Steward, he was given. Such was the love and respect between the two.
Though Orcs spilled not from the White Mountains, Corsair pirates made it a practice to harry the coastline. And Elphir and Faramir became their scourge. Faramir had quickly learned the ways of the waters of the Bay of Belfalas. Elphir could climb the rigging faster and easier than could his cousin, but Faramir still gave him a run for the money. After six month's time, he was as fleet-footed and nimble as the young prince. They had their own boat and a few others under them, and they ran the seas searching and destroying all who would even consider plundering Belfalas.
Thoughts of the past scattered as Faramir entered the great hall of the palace of Dol Amroth just as the ceremony was about to begin. Elphir ran from his place next to his father and embraced his cousin. "I thought you might not come," he whispered in his ear. "I could not endure this without you."
Faramir's eyes moistened as he accepted the embrace, realizing Boromir had been right after all. He was the one who must be here in Dol Amroth to bury their grandfather. And to praise his uncle as he was lifted up as the Twenty-second Prince of Dol Amroth. He bowed low and allowed Elphir to lead him to his place.
Boromir walked the parapet. It had been nigh unto a half-month since Denethor had been wounded and still his father slept fitfully; he had yet to stay awake for a whole day. Arciryas thought the axe's spike might have been dipped in poison. It was customary for Southrons to use such barbaric ways. Denethor's body would have to endure the poison till it dissipated. He was strong, the healer kept assuring Boromir; he would survive. It would take time.
'I do not have time,' Boromir thought furiously. 'The needs of Gondor weigh heavy upon me and I would serve her, but I do not know how. I need a sword in my hand and my shield and horn!'
He had sat in many Council meetings, but never took part, always watching in amaze as his father wielded the members like 'Kings and Stewards' pieces. He remembered congratulating his father after one such 'match' between Denethor and Lord Amandil. Though the lord was of an illustrious family, he was no equal to Denethor. The man had wanted the lords of Minas Tirith who were of pure Númenórean descent to be taxed at a lesser rate than the other lords of Gondor. Denethor had bowed low to the old man and begun to tell all of the lordliness of Amandil's family - distant descendants of Elendil himself. Then he went on to tell of the devotion of Elendil to the Valar and to those who were unjustly persecuted for their faithfulness. How Amandil's namesake had given his own life to try to save his people. He finished the discourse by saying he was incredibly sorry for having misunderstood Amandil. That he realized, as he was telling the tale of his ancestors, that Amandil must have asked that those of pure blood be taxed at a greater ratio than those not.
Amandil, so taken aback by the words of praise, could only sputter and say that Denethor had indeed misunderstood him, that Amandil had asked for greater taxes. The man had left the hall muttering under his breath. He had rarely spoken at Council meetings after that.
When Boromir had met Denethor after the Council had adjourned, his father gently rebuked him for taking pleasure in Amandil's censure - been 'put in his place,' Boromir's very words. "These men are our allies, Boromir. Gondor relies upon them to bring just causes to her attention. As Steward, we must remember that, give them the respect that is due them, but never let them diminish Gondor. Therefore, you will never rejoice in winning such a battle, Boromir. They are not our enemy, like the Orcs you fight; they are our people."
'But they are so weak, Father,' Boromir thought disconsolately as he leaned against the parapet's wall. He had spent every day for the last fortnight in the Great Hall, listening to the troubles of the people of Gondor, hoping that he was offering the correct solution to their complaints, the needed services to them. He shook his head, walked to the very end of the escarpment, and looked out upon the fields before him. The stars shone brightly in the sky. He looked for Eärendil the Mariner and found him, low in the southern sky. He heard her before he saw her. Turning, he smiled. "Amma."
"You are weary. I see it in your eyes. And your shoulders are bent over as if a great weight is upon them." She touched his cheek and held it.
The warmth of her touch lifted him, gave him strength. "I am tired. I wish you would sit in Father's Chair. I do not belong there. I have not the training nor the insight. Faramir should be there! Yet I am the one who sent him away."
"Faramir should not be there. You are the heir. It is your duty. I have watched you." She smiled as he looked at her in amaze. "Yes. I have watched you from the shadows and you have shown yourself well. Your father will be proud, once he recovers."
"How could he be proud? Did you not hear what I did today? Gave away farmlands that had been in one man's family for ages."
"You did not know all the facts when you passed the decision. Once you were informed, you brought the wrong doer back and gave the lands to the rightful owners. If you had let the error lie, in pride or foolishness, then, your father would not be proud. As it is, he will be very proud indeed."
He smiled. "I should have waited for more information."
"I should have been Queen Berúthiel," she laughed.
He hugged her tightly. "You would have been a perfect queen for Gondor, Amma. You have always been my queen."
"I suppose you will return to Gondor soon?" Imrahil asked quietly.
Faramir continued walking along his mother's garden. He stopped by a small shrub of athelas. Picking a handful of the fragrant leaves, he inhaled them deeply. A deep sense of calm overcame him, the first he had felt since leaving Minas Tirith more than a month ago.
"You will be missed. Not only by Elphir and Erchirion, but by me and your men."
"I know. But there has been no word. Father should have recovered by now. Boromir promised he would send word."
"A missive takes a very long time to reach our part of Middle-earth, Faramir."
"I know that." He dropped the sprig of leaves and covered his face. Deep sobs shook him. "I cannot lose him, Uncle. We fight, we do not understand each other, but I love him. And I will..." He stopped and sat on one of his mother's favorite stoops overlooking the Bay. Darkness had descended but the moon shone on the whitecaps hitting the outer wall of the harbor below. He laid his head heavily on the stone parapet surrounding the garden.
"Adrahil was a hard man, in his own way, yet I loved him deeply. I miss him terribly. I am too young," Imrahil laughed, "to carry the weight of Belfalas on my shoulders, but I must. Know that you are as important to me, Faramir, as are my sons. If you ever need anything, send for me. Else I will be hurt beyond measure."
Faramir stood and embraced his uncle. Memories flooded his mind of all the kindnesses that this man had done for him. "How honored I am to be your nephew."
Another breath. All Denethor needed was to take another breath, but fire filled his being when he did and a moan was torn from his lips. Out of the corner of his eye he saw that Boromir stood by his bedside. He had vowed he would keep silent as Arciryas poked and prodded him, for Boromir's sake. But the pain was beyond endurance. He shivered uncontrollably and closed his eyes. He sensed Boromir kneeling next to him, then he felt the strong hands that he knew were his son's holding him still. He bowed his head and tears fell, unbidden. Boromir gently wiped them away. "My son," he whispered.
He shook again as the healer touched the wound, a scream forcing its way from his very being. More years than he could remember had it been since he had last lost control of himself. In the fires of Emyn Arnen. Yes, that had been the last time. His teeth began to chatter; Boromir held him tighter. The healer poured a hideous smelling mixture down his throat. He choked. "You are trying to murder me!" he gasped. He heard Arciryas' chuckle. The pain lifted, gradually, and he was able to open his eyes. Boromir's beautiful gray eyes, pain and sorrow-filled, looked down upon him. He raised his hand slightly and Boromir noted and quickly took it in his own. "I am sorry."
"What have you to be sorry for, Father? Pain is friend to a warrior, lets him know he will live. The wound is grievous. Your cries help you endure as your body heals. I am no longer a child, Father; I know pain and its uses. Scream if you must. I will hold you."
Tears fell harder. "Where... where is Faramir? I would have him by my side."
Boromir bowed his head. "There was news from Dol Amroth, Father. Grandfather is dead."
"A fortnight ago. Faramir has gone in your stead to present Gondor's condolences."
Silence filled the bedchamber. At last, Denethor took a shallow breath. "I would that I could have gone. Your mother loved her father very much. I would show all of Belfalas the depth of that love. But Faramir will have to do." His voice gradually weakened. The healer stepped forward again and poured a little more of the medicament down Denethor's throat. "I am sure..." but Denethor had not the breath to reprimand his sister's husband.
Arciryas knelt. "It is good to see you angry again. I could not bear the loss of that fierce temper of yours." The man smiled warmly. "You will be your old grim self in less than a fortnight. Now, I bid you rest. Boromir," he stood and motioned for the heir to follow him, but Denethor put out a hand and stopped him.
"Please, let my son stay a little longer." His voice rasped and caught. Boromir was instantly at his side again.
"Very well. But I want no talking. Every breath you take strives to undue the stitches in your chest. Talking only worsens it. Do not talk, do you understand?"
Denethor nodded his head, as did Boromir. The healer smiled and walked towards Indis' chair. "I will hold you responsible." She smiled at him; he kissed her cheek and left the room.
"Is Gondor well?"
"Did not your Master Healer order you not to talk?" Indis said as she stood and walked to his bedside. "You are too oft stubborn, my brother. And I am now responsible for your well-being."
"You have always been responsible," Denethor whispered and tears fell again. "Beloved sister."
She found herself weeping and, in consternation, started fluffing his pillow and pulling on the bedcovers. "Enough of this foolishness. You are healing rapidly and will resume court soon. Boromir has done well." Her eyebrow arched. "You would be most proud of him."
Denethor smiled and squeezed Boromir's hand a little tighter. "The - "
"Sh! Did I not tell you to remain silent?" She smiled. "Never am I allowed to speak for so long a period. It is a heady feeling."
Boromir snorted in amusement.
"There have been many cases that have come before your son that have needed a wise hand and for good counsel to prevail. Boromir has risen to the task, brother. He has learned much, sitting at your side. I think it now time that Faramir return from duty abroad and sit at your side, to learn as Boromir has done. Boromir is Captain-General. For the time being, his place is in the field with Gondor's warriors."
"I miss him," he whispered. He fell into sleep.
"Uncle I am ready to play 'Kings and Stewards.' Where are you?" The wounded Steward thrashed about the bed.
"Father! She is dead." Tears flowed. "Her head... Oh, Father. Almiel is dead."
"Listen, listen! The muffled drumbeat of the cortege on its way to the burial grounds."
"Amdir!" he cried urgently. "Where are you? The flames... have you found the child? The roof - it falls - Amdir! Run!" He started to choke; the smoke filled his lungs. Moments of silence. He coughed desperately.
"It is cold here, Finduilas. I am glad you are in Dol Amroth. You do not belong here."
"Orcs! Only three, Amdir. We will prevail." Silence; Denethor's head lolled from side to side. "Amdir!" The scream shook the room. The body on the bed convulsed in agony as sobs tore through it.
"Faramir, go to your room now. I will be... I will be along presently." The tears flowed harder and sobs shook him. "Death; all is death."
Boromir bowed his head in grief. He was glad Faramir was away for this. Arciryas told him the medicaments for pain caused these hideous dreams, but he found it agonizing to listen. How insufferable for his father to have to relive them. Boromir prayed to the Valar that Denethor would not remember them once he woke.
'I will not think upon my mother,' Boromir told himself fiercely, but he could not keep her out of his mind. The room his father had made - the Sea Room she had called it. So many months they had spent there. From the moment the sun came out till the moment it set, she would bring them to that room and they would play in the sand as she sat on the lounge, watching them, then sleeping, always sleeping. He shivered. Putting his hands over his face, he let his grief flow. None would see him. Denethor was off in some dreadful world and Indis had gone to bring Boromir nuncheon. After some moments, his shoulders stopped shaking. He wiped his hands over his face, removing the trace of tears. He put his hand on his father's brow. Still warm but not as warm as it had been last night. Arciryas had said that he would heal; he would recover. If the fever was leaving him, then, mayhap, the healer was correct.
Boromir remembered his Uncle Amdir. The man knew how to laugh. And he could tell the best stories. And his mother could bake the best bread. They would ride, the three of them, Uncle Amdir, Father and Boromir, over the Pelennor, letting the horses have their way and laughing in delight. He never knew exactly what had happened for Amdir died at the same time as his mother, and that time was still a blur to Boromir. He sighed. 'All is death.' It had touched him too. 'Too many times death has touched us all. Will it never...?' He choked, then laughed. 'Only if we are Elves will we ever be free of it, of death.'
'But Uncle Amdir is free now, as is Mother. Both grandfathers.' He wished that he could have gone to Dol Amroth with Faramir. He loved Adrahil. He smiled remembering the warmth of his grandfather's hand upon his head when he would speak. Always approving. The man never said a word of reprimand. Always kindness. He had been afraid of his father's father. There was a hard glint in Ecthelion's eyes and Boromir, even now, shivered as he thought of him. He remembered when Ecthelion lay on his deathbed and held his arm tightly, frightening him, and telling him not to obey his father, his own father. He had stood still and listened and then Denethor had saved him, pulled him away from that tight grip and taken him to his mother.
They had been spared death this one time. Perhaps it was content with Adrahil. Perhaps this time, only one needed for sacrifice for the Valar to show them mercy. Boromir stood, stretched, and walked to the window. He cocked his head; a smile lit his face. The horn, the signal sounded; Faramir was come home. He ran towards the door, ready to call the guard to stay with Denethor until he returned, but Indis stood before him. He had to quickly grab the tray she held to prevent its contents from spilling all over the floor.
"Forgive me," he cried, but she laughed.
"I heard it too, Faramir's horn. Go to him. I will stay with your father."
He kissed her and ran.
Long days passed and Denethor regained his strength. The poison that covered the axe's barbed tip was known to the Master Healer. It had taken long to counter its effects, but Denethor was strong and the healer would not be beaten. After another week, he let Denethor sit by the window overlooking Finduilas' garden. Boromir sat next to him; Faramir sat on the floor at his feet.
"There were lords from all the fiefdoms, Father," Faramir continued in his telling of the funeral for Adrahil. "Uncle Imrahil held himself well. He is gracious and kind. My heart sorrowed for his sons, for they were closer to Grandfather than Boromir and I. To have lived in the same house, to have seen him every day, to have felt his hugs..." Faramir bit his lip, conscious of the fact that hugs were few in the household of Denethor. "Father, Mithrandir sends his greetings," Faramir said innocently enough.
Boromir swore under his breath. 'Will the lad never learn!' He watched his father's eyebrow raise. He quickly spoke, to take the sting from Faramir's remark. "The men of Gondor have always farewell'd a warrior with grace. I remember..." He drew in a sharp breath and, under his breath, cursed himself. His own tongue was as free as Faramir's!
Denethor started. "You remember?"
"Forgive me, Father. I misspoke."
He smiled gently. "I want to know, Boromir. What do you remember?"
"I remember Uncle Amdir's burial. The soldiers all crowded 'round him and fought as to who would carry his bier."
Denethor's eyes widened and he tried to stand. Faramir held his arm. "Father! Do not tax yourself."
Denethor sat back in his chair, his face white; he appeared to struggle to breathe. Faramir ran to get the medicament that steeped on the table, waiting for Denethor's need. He returned and held the cup before his father. Denethor looked at him, his eyes uncomprehending.
Boromir stood and took the cup. "Here, Father, just a little sip of this, please." He pressed the cup to Denethor's lips. His father looked up at him. "Please, Father." He tilted the cup and some of the warm liquid went into Denethor's mouth, but most slid out the sides and down his chin.
Faramir ran to the bell pull to call for help.
"Amdir's burial?" Denethor croaked. "You remember Amdir's burial?"
"Yes, Father. I went with them, bearing his body to Rath Dínen."
"He is buried here? Here in Minas Tirith?"
"By your order, Father." Boromir looked at him, puzzled. "Is that not what you wished?"
"I looked for him. Every time I rode out onto the Pelennor, I looked for his grave. I rode to his mother's farm. But he was not there. I even rode to Emyn Arnen - thinking that perhaps he was buried there. And all along, he was one level from me." He started to stand. "I must go to him."
Boromir gently held him down. "Father, you cannot leave this room. Please, tell me how Uncle Amdir died. I do not remember anyone telling us. Is it too hard for you to tell?"
Denethor shuddered, closed his eyes for a moment, then bowed his head. "I am too tired. Help me to my bed."
Faramir ran back to them and took the Steward's left side, while Boromir held him on the right. Slowly they walked to the bed. Indis ran into the room; she had been told of the alarm, and stopped. Boromir shook his head, smiling. She understood and sat in her chair. His sons lowered him to his bed, helped take off the robe, and covered him, once he lay down.
"I do not remember much of that year. Your mother's... Gondor struggled with her grief. I could not stay in the City afterwards. I left you with Indis and rode out to Osgiliath. I had hoped it would bring healing, being away from the City. After a time, I sat on the banks of the Anduin. My friend found me there. He helped me, as he had always done. We talked. Then, Orcs attacked. Only three. I was sure we would prevail. The first was easily slain. The second had a crossbow, cocked, ready to fire, but I slit his throat. As he fell, the arrow loosed." He sat still for many long moments. "Amdir took the arrow in his chest. I remember naught after that. Small little pieces of memory come into my mind, then float away, and I wonder if they are real or not."
"I remember they brought him back to the City," Boromir spoke low. "Faramir did not understand and tried to comfort you. You turned him away. I stayed by Uncle Amdir's cart. I wanted to hear him tell me another story, but Baranor said he had gone away. They took him, that very day, to Rath Dínen. You did not come with us. I can show you where he lies, Father, when you are better."
"You do not remember him, do you Faramir?"
"Nay, Father, I do not."
"You do not remember your mother?" he whispered.
"Nay, Father, I do not," Faramir's choked response cut him deeply.
"I will tell you about her. She was the most beautiful woman in all of Gondor, nay, in all of Middle-earth. And the kindest woman. She loved you and Boromir very much. She would hold you in her arms and coo. Cooing is a woman's way of talking to a babe. I could not do that. To make silly noises... it embarrassed me. But she would sit for hours, with Boromir at her feet, and coo to you. I would sit in the study off your nursery and listen to her. Sometimes, she would sing," Denethor's voice broke and tears fell. "I am tired," he said, "The medicaments affect me," and turned his face away.
"If you do not sit still, I cannot ascertain the healing of your wound," Arciryas hissed in dismay. "You want to return to your duties; you will not until I have finished my examination."
Denethor sighed heavily. "Then do what you must!"
Boromir laughed and Denethor scowled. "It is time you were away again; your idle time here in Minas Tirith has ended. I have heard what you do in your spare time. When you should be in the practice court, you are in the inns that line the Fourth Level. I believe I will send you to your uncle."
"With Faramir?" Boromir asked eagerly.
"Nay. Faramir is to stay in Minas Tirith. It is time he learned some of the ways of the Council. Too long has he been away." He scowled again, his brow furrowed deeply. "I was not too sick to miss what he said about Mithrandir. Obviously, their paths have crossed a number of times. I want him here, by my side, to protect him from the wizard."
He raised a hand. "Do not speak, Boromir. I am not a dotard. I know he values the wizard. I have said it before and I will say it again, I fear for him. Mithrandir speaks of things that are not for Gondor's good. What are we here for - " he stopped and quickly hissed. "You have the hands of an Orc!" he shouted at Arciryas. "Are you trying to kill me?"
The healer snorted. "If I had wanted to kill you, I would have done it a long time ago. But your sister would be put out."
Denethor laughed. "We must not 'put out' Indis, must we? How you have ever stood being married to her for this long, I cannot fathom!"
"And what about me cannot you fathom?" Indis entered the room, then moved towards the chair where Denethor sat and kissed him lightly on the brow. Alarmed, she turned towards Arciryas. "He feels fevered?"
"Nay! It is his temper. He has been ranting and raving for the last half hour."
She smiled and kissed Denethor again. "Then, brother, stop your ranting and raving. Your court is in session and the people wait for you. They would greet you in joy. Long have they waited for this day. All of Gondor is glad for your recovery."
"I will not say further. But come. Arciryas, is he ready?"
"Yes." He helped him pull the tunic over his shirt. "You are ready, my Lord, but let me remind you that you must take your time. Spend only one hour in court, then return to your room. Else, I will send Indis after you."
Denethor smiled and let Boromir help him stand. "I am ready."
They walked slowly down the steps from the Steward's chambers to the door that led to the Great Hall on their right and the door that opened onto the Courtyard that stood in front of them. Boromir steered him towards the Courtyard door and Denethor frowned.
"Court is in the Great Hall, my son."
"We have something to show you," Faramir said quietly. He walked on Denethor's left. Indis and Arciryas followed behind.
A guard opened the door and Denethor, at first blinded by the light of midday, stepped onto the Courtyard. A great cheer met him. He blinked his eyes a number of times. It seemed as if all of Gondor stood before him. The Steward's banners were clutched in the people's hands and they waved them as they shouted. "Long live, Denethor, Steward of Gondor!"
He almost tripped; wet covered his eyes. His grip on Boromir's hand tightened. "You knew of this?" he hissed.
"They would not be swayed, Father. They were afraid. They love you."
Faramir stepped closer. "They love you, Father."
"So there was more than one who took part in the attempt on my life?"
"Yes, my Lord," Húrin said quietly. "We have found three others, two from Minas Tirith itself. They are men your father hired years ago from Harad. They have never shown themselves to be traitors."
"And they have been hung?"
Húrin started. "Not yet, my Lord. We awaited your decision."
"Hang them. Today."
Faramir stepped forward. "Father. Take a moment, please."
Denethor's breath caught. "Because I allow you to sit at the Council's meetings, you deem yourself ready to give me orders?"
Faramir stood before the Chair and bowed. "Father, I only ask that you take a moment. Let not your anger, your fury, cloud your judgment."
Denethor's brow arched. "There is but one judgment for treason. That is hanging. I want it done today." He turned to Húrin. "Today."
The old soldier bowed. "Yes, my Lord. It will be done."
As Húrin left the Great Hall, Faramir tried one more time. "You could banish them to Harad, Father."
"Banish them to their home?" he asked in scorn. "What kind of punishment is that?"
"They would go in disgrace, Father. Their comrades in your service would hold them in contempt. They would listen to the taunts of those they hold dear as they were escorted from the City. It would be an acceptable punishment."
"It would not! You would be kind in the face of treason. Kindness of that sort would cause the fall of Gondor. I have seen this in you before, Faramir, this need to appease our enemies. It does not fit you."
"Nay, Father. It is not to appease our enemies. But it is to show our people that their Steward is wise and does not let anger nor bitterness sway his decisions."
"So now you say that I am a fool?"
Faramir shook his head, tears filling his eyes. He knelt before the Chair. "Father, you are the wisest man I know."
"But not as wise as the wizard? I see it in your eyes. He counsels restraint. Even when..." He took in a deep breath. "Do not listen to the wizard, my son. He will lead you astray. He says he has only Gondor's weal in his heart, but that is a lie. I know it. He thinks beyond Gondor. He would sacrifice Gondor for other lands." By this time, Denethor stood. He stepped closer to his son and helped him stand. "Do not listen to him." His eyes widened in alarm and understanding. "I am too late. I have lost you."
"Nay, Father!" Faramir shouted. "I am not lost. I am yours." He pulled Denethor close and hugged him tightly. Then stepped back in distress. "You wear mail?"
"I can trust no one, Faramir. I also wear my sword, here at my side. I will take neither off ever again."
The campfires were lit and some of the men were settling down. Boromir had camped north of Pelargir. Faramir had joined him this night; they had planned this meeting. Boromir's ship had sailed into Pelargir two nights before. A song was started, low and sad at one end of the camp, and at the other end a few men made a makeshift dance line, laughing as they tried to master the new steps being done in the City.
Boromir laughed. "Come, little brother. Let us show these poor excuses for dancers how this is supposed to be done!" With that he grabbed Faramir's forearm and hauled him to his feet. Faramir grinned. Both men unbuckled their scabbards, drew their swords, throwing the scabbards to their esquires, then placed their swords on the ground.
Suddenly, stillness filled the night air. The stars themselves seemed to pause in their flight. The tension was palpable. All left what they had been about and formed a circle around the two men. Everyone knew this was a contest, for, though great was the love brother for brother; great also was the love of competition. The men started a slow steady clapping as they sang the familiar battle song; they knew they were in for a treat.
The brothers smiled and started circling their swords and each other. Slowly, they moved to the dance. The men's clapping grew faster, the singing louder. The brothers' feet flew, hands held high in the air one moment, then reaching for their swords in the next. The clapping spurred both brothers' feet into faster movement. Laughter was warm upon Faramir's face, but Boromir's, though a smile covered it, showed deep concentration. Faramir danced with grace Boromir knew, but at speed, none could match him.
As the clapping became faster and stronger, shouts roared from men caught up in the excitement that was before them. Suddenly, Faramir stumbled and fell backwards. Hoots of laughter went up from the men, but a look of consternation covered Boromir's face. He growled at the men who immediately ceased their good-natured teasing. Faramir started to get up, but Boromir was quickly at his side with his arm outstretched.
"Forgive me, brother. I should have stopped moments ago."
Faramir smiled and clapped Boromir on the shoulder as he was pulled upright. "That was fun. You always did best me when the dance raised its speed, though perhaps..."
"None dance as gracefully as you, little brother," Boromir interrupted. "Any great brute can move his feet quickly. It takes skill to move them well. I am sorry!" He hugged him fiercely and with great pride. The men strode forward and pounded them both on their backs, congratulating them.
Silence shattered the moment. The men quickly parted and Denethor stood before them. An embarrassed smile spread across Boromir's face as he moved forward to greet his father. Denethor sidestepped Boromir and advanced upon Faramir. Faramir kept his head high, keeping his eyes focused straight before him, but he did not look at his father.
Denethor stopped a few steps short and faced Faramir. "So, I send you to Pelargir to consult with your brother and what do I find?" Scorn dripped off his words.
Boromir took his father by the arm, a broad smile on his face, and guided him to the perimeter of the camp. The men quickly made way for them and moved out of hearing.
"Father, I would that you remember who I am; your heir and future Steward of Gondor. I will not have you reprimand Faramir or me in front of my men."
Denethor stood to his full height. "And I would remind you who I am. Do not begin to think that I am incapable of reprimanding you whenever and wherever I think it necessary."
Boromir's cheeks flushed red. "Yes, my Lord," he stated flatly. "I will remember. Please, come to my tent. I have maps that I would like to discuss with you, and some wine. Faramir," he called out, but Denethor's hand on his arm stayed him.
"Do not call your brother. We have no need of him."
"Father!" Boromir's face reflected the hurt in his heart. "What has he done, Father, to cause this anger? What has he done?"
"It is not your affair. Right now we have strategy to discuss. I want to promote some of your men. Send them to other garrisons. Just this past month, we lost two captains. They must be replaced and quickly. I would ask your suggestions."
Boromir led him to his tent.
"Osgiliath needs a new captain and I would have you take that post. It is our most important garrison. I will need a captain to command the garrison in Pelargir. I also need one for Cair Andros. Who would you suggest?" Denethor asked as he took a sip of the wine Boromir offered.
"I very much think Berelach is ready for the garrison of Cair Andros. Long has he been with us, Father. He has served under you for more years than I can remember and yet, he has never been raised beyond lieutenant."
"Yes. He has been my right hand, but now I need more than a right hand. I can do without him at my side. I will station him at Cair Andros as you suggest. If I have need of him, it would take him but a short time to return to Minas Tirith. Yes, I will make him captain. And Pelargir - what think you of that?"
"It is very close to danger, Father, yet, Faramir would do well there."
"Faramir!" Denethor almost choked.
"Father. You have asked me for my opinion and I give it. Faramir is most capable. He had been Captain at Dol Amroth for the past six years, until you recalled him to Minas Tirith. He is a statesman and a warrior. Prince Imrahil thinks only the best of him. We need a statesman in Pelargir. Too many of our enemies are close to that garrison. Strength is needed there, also. And Faramir is strong, Father, truly he is, and a good statesman besides. With the time he has spent in Minas Tirith at Council meetings, he will do well there."
Denethor looked at him quizzically. "Yes, I believe you are right. I will send him to Pelargir. He will still be far removed from the wizard's presence and that will be good."
"Father," Boromir asked, "why do you fear his relationship with Mithrandir? They are only friends."
"Friends!" Denethor laughed harshly. "Faramir dotes on him. Every word the wizard utters seems as mithril to him." Denethor stopped. He shook his head. "I sound like I am ranting. Like an old fool. I do not trust wizards, my son. You know that. I thought Faramir had the sense not to also, but in that, I see I have been wrong." He gave a dry laugh. "What do you think of wizards, Boromir?"
"I have had no dealings with wizards, Father. I have too much to be concerned with.
Mithrandir keeps to the library. You know I do not frequent those rooms."
"It is naught to be proud of, Boromir. Books hold much wisdom. Would that you had spent more time with them."
"So, my Father, you are saying that I am a dolt?" Boromir laughed gently. "Faramir spends enough time with books for the both of us. I..."
"I hone other skills, Father, skills that Gondor needs now. Faramir thinks I am wrong. That I should seek the wisdom of books, much as you have said this night. But there is not enough time in the day. Battle skills are what Gondor needs. The sword, the dirk, the spear... These are my books, Father. Once you said I was your warrior and Faramir was your counselor; I turn to you and to Faramir for my wisdom. And you have not failed me."
Denethor's eyes shone. "My son. You do me proud. Forgive my ranting about Faramir. He spends his time wisely. I do not like the wizard," he said, his voice rising at the word. He shuddered slightly. "I have had dealings with wizards before and I fear I do not trust them. Did I ever tell you about one named Curunír? Of course I have. He was long before your time, though he lives still in Isengard. I cannot even tell you what he did to me, or why I fear him, but I do. That sense of ill has transferred to Faramir's wizard. I am afraid for your brother, Boromir. Afraid that Mithrandir plants lies in his mind, twists his words and his loyalties to him and not to Gondor. I can only hope that I am wrong. Do you see it, Boromir, in his bearing? In his words? Disloyalty to me?"
"Father!" Boromir almost shouted. "Faramir is only loyal to Gondor. And to you! You have naught to fear."
"Then I will send him to Pelargir." He paused as Boromir whooped. "But - I will not send him as captain of the garrison. I will send Elphir."
Boromir stood stock-still. "Elphir? He is a Captain of Belfalas. He has a garrison that he commands near Dol Amroth itself. He will not come."
Denethor's visage steeled visibly. "He will come. His first duty is to Gondor. If I tell him he is to captain Pelargir, he will captain Pelargir."
Boromir shuddered slightly. "His father will be most displeased," he said quietly.
"I know." He rubbed his chin. "I will send a missive to Imrahil first, asking for Elphir's services." He laughed mirthlessly. "I can be most stubborn, can I not? It is their duty, both of theirs, to obey the Steward of Gondor. Until the king comes." Now his voice held the slightest trace of irony. "Do not look at me like that, Boromir. Have you still not learned the way of a statesman? Your face betrays you. You must learn to conceal your feelings."
"My men still obey me," the knight that once was his little boy said simply.
"Of course they do. And to the death." He paused and closed his eyes. "Faramir - Faramir is the one who has finally learned to mask his true thoughts."
"Father!" Boromir cried, but Denethor stopped him.
"It is a good trait to learn. I am not deprecating him. As for Imrahil, I will write of the situation and he will understand as one father to another."
Boromir cried again. "You cannot do this, Father! You cannot demean Faramir in this manner. You cannot tell Uncle Imrahil that Faramir is not ready to captain an entire garrison! He has already proved himself time and again. For the Valar's sake! Faramir taught Elphir! And to have Elphir captain over him, that is ludicrous."
"He has been under Imrahil's tutelage in Belfalas. This is just a continuation." Denethor stopped at the scorn on Boromir's face. "You do not approve?" He continued on when Boromir said naught. "Nevertheless, I will have Elphir ride to Pelargir. I will ask Imrahil to let him stay for six months to help Faramir acclimatize as commander of a full garrison, have Elphir report on the state of the garrison, then I will have Faramir take the captaincy. Will that suffice?"
"And what will you write to Uncle Imrahil?"
Denethor sighed. "I do not have to answer to you, Boromir."
The lad stood taller. "You do not, my Steward."
Heaving another sigh, Denethor said, "I will stroke him with words of praise for his son and say I need someone with a discerning eye to look over the garrison and to help my son prepare for his captaincy. I will say naught disparaging about Faramir. Is there aught else you request?" he asked, the question voiced with some sarcasm.
"First, may I have a few weeks at home with him? I miss him, Father."
"Yes, I have missed you. But we will keep the wizard out of Minas Tirith while Faramir is on leave."
Boromir laughed. "Then sleep, my Father. My tent is yours. I will stay the night with Faramir."
He ran as fast as he could towards Faramir's tent. "Faramir," he shouted. "Faramir, I am going on leave for a few weeks. I am coming home!" He hugged him earnestly and with great glee.
"Come, I have much to tell you," Boromir said and Faramir's tent flap closed upon them.
Denethor stood before his friend's tomb. The torchbearer stood next to him. "Leave it in the holder." The man did as he was bid, then bowed and left.
Denethor walked slowly to the marble bier. On its top was chiseled, in finest black marble, a likeness of Amdir. Only lords were embalmed and laid atop their tombs. He touched the face, ran his fingers down the shoulder, then stopped with his hand where Amdir's heart should be.
He knelt, deepest sorrow overtaking him. "I asked you not to leave me," he whispered. "So long ago in the Houses of Healing. After the fire. Do you remember it, Amdir? I sat at your bedside and wept and begged you to stay with me. I told you that you were greater than I... That I needed you beside me. Your goodness and your wisdom. Always it comes back to wisdom," he sobbed. "I know strategy; I know troop deployment; I know how to bend a man's will to mine. But true wisdom, Amdir. You were supposed to be the one I leaned upon for wisdom. And what have you done? You have left me.
"You left me with a son who will not listen and with a wizard who steals his heart. I would ask you about Faramir. How I should treat him? He is so like me. So very like me when I was a youth. Too soft. Too much the scholar. There is no time for him to become strong as I now am. I do not know how to speak with him. Boromir does his duty. He listens to me and obeys, without question.
"But Faramir - he questions everything I ask of him. I did not have the strength nor the courage to question Ecthelion outright. But in my heart, I questioned him. A thousand times. And the few times I found the courage to say what I thought was right, he treated me as I treat Faramir. Nay! Worse. For how many times was I sent away to learn obedience, to learn fealty, to learn to bite my tongue and keep own thoughts to myself...
"I only had you, Amdir. You listened," he smiled, "and I listened to you. You are sorely missed, my friend. If, by fate's chance you have the ear of a Vala, ask for mercy for me, for Gondor, and for Faramir. I fear I have lost them all."
A/N - Appendices: Appendix A: Annals of the Kings and Rulers (iv) GONDOR AND THE HEIRS OF ANÁRION. "(Faramir) He welcomed Gandalf at such times as he came to the City, and he learned what he could from his wisdom; and in this as in many other matters he displeased his father."
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.