47. Third Age 3017 - Part Twelve
Two days later, Beregond ran to Boromir's side. "He should be at the Harlond within the hour!" Excitement tinged his voice.
Boromir quickly thanked his sparring partner then turned to his aide. "Help me get this off. And send someone to draw a bath. And tell Imrahil. And Siriondil. I need him with us."
Beregond laughed. "As soon as we relieve you of this armor. I am only one man; I can do only one task at a time."
Impatiently, Boromir worked at the clasps. At last, he was free of the heavy armor. He ran to the baths, tore off his mail, shirt, leggings, and under things and plunged in. The attendant had stopped trying to help him after the first moment. However, he did bring the soaps for washing. He poured a pitcher full of water over Boromir's head and lathered his hair. In the meantime, Boromir was quickly washing himself. At about the same time the attendant poured the rinse water over him, Boromir was done. He took the proffered towel and hastily dried himself. Wrapping the towel around his waist, he ran to the dressing rooms, threw his clothes on his half-dried body and strode outside. Imrahil and Siriondil waited for him. He clasped their hands.
"Thank you for your haste," he said as they quietly walked down through the circles of the City. "Siriondil. I want him examined thoroughly, though he will complain - and loudly. His wounds from the ambush and his head, especially his head. And make sure there is no sign of fever."
The Master Healer of Gondor nodded. "Of course he will complain. Am I not used to the sons of Denethor complaining?" He smiled at the flush that crept across Boromir's face. "I will be gentle, but thorough, Lord Boromir. I did learn my trade from Arciryas himself."
A shadow crossed Boromir's face. "It is hard to believe he is gone."
"Much happier, I am sure, now that he is free of his duty to your line!"
Boromir laughed gently. "And he is with Amma, if the scholars tell it rightly."
"Our fondest wish," Imrahil interjected, "that those we love and have lost dwell somewhere together in peace and happiness."
"Yes. Now, Uncle, what should I look for? Was he distraught, desolate when he left Dol Amroth?"
"As I told your father, he was sad and guilt-ridden..."
"Damrod should have beaten the guilt out of him by now," Boromir laughed.
They reached the First Level and went through the Great Gate. Their horses were saddled and ready. A company of Gondor's Knights sat in readiness.
"What is this?" Boromir cried. "I ordered no muster."
"The Steward's order, Captain-General."
Boromir paled, but accepted the escort. After they were mounted, he gave the signal to move out.
Imrahil leaned over. "You did not seriously think your father was not aware that Faramir approached? Or your response?" He laughed quietly. "Be grateful he did not join us."
In fact, Denethor waited for them at the gate that opened from the Harlond onto the Pelennor. A small smile of delight that he had surprised Boromir shone from his eyes. "Is your look of chagrin due to the fact that I arrived first? Or did you wish to greet Faramir privately?" Denethor paused. "Ah! You are concerned at the reception I might offer." His demeanor changed. "I would have thought that you, above all men, would know that I would greet him with joy. It saddens me, Boromir, your ill-regard for me."
Boromir slid from his horse and handed the reins to Beregond. Imrahil and Siriondil had stopped many paces back, as soon as Imrahil recognized who awaited them.
Boromir embraced his father. "It is not ill-regard, Father. My concern is for Faramir's health."
"And mine is not?" Denethor quirked an eyebrow as he returned the embrace.
Boromir sighed heavily and stepped back. "How do I say this to you, Father? I care not for myself. You know me and love me and I am well aware and gratified by your love. However..."
"However my scrutiny of your brother's dealings makes me suspect?"
"He has been on the road for months after having endured ambush and wounding..."
"You do not have to continue, Boromir. I am well aware of the trials that have beset your brother."
"Your son," Boromir whispered.
Denethor's face blazed. "My son," he spoke through clenched teeth, "knows my love for him. He will expect me to judge him fairly. However, my suspicious son, I did not come to the Harlond to question him; I came to welcome him home."
"Forgive me, Father."
"There is naught to forgive. Why did you bring the healer here? Do you expect the lad to strip and endure examination on the docks?"
Boromir smiled. "I have a room readied in the Harbor Master's quarters."
"Do you not think it would be wiser to have Faramir examined in the Houses?"
"I am concerned, Father. He had a fever before he left Minas Tirith, albeit from the poisoned arrows; yet again, Imrahil states he had a fever at Tarnost. I am concerned," he repeated lamely. "My own wound is slow to heal. I would have Faramir examined sooner than later. Here, he cannot say, nay."
"That is sound reasoning."
At that moment, Faramir's horn could be heard, calling out loud and clear.
"At least he has the strength to wind it well." Denethor motioned and Imrahil and Siriondil joined them. "Why do you not show Siriondil where he is to meet Faramir? He can set up his instruments and be ready. Imrahil and I will wait here."
A quarter of an hour passed and Faramir's banner could be seen. Boromir had returned and stood anxiously, almost on tiptoe, waiting for the first sight of his brother.
The look of discomfiture at his presence would have made Denethor smile if not for the pallid skin and sweat evidenced upon his youngest's brow. He stepped forward and waited. Faramir slowly dismounted and found himself enveloped in his father's warm embrace.
"You were missed," Denethor whispered. "And not just by Boromir." He started to shake in alarm as he felt Faramir sway in his arms. "You are not well?" he whispered.
"Nay, Father." Faramir swallowed, "The fever returns."
"Damrod!" Denethor called but Boromir was at his side and gently took Faramir's arm and held him upright.
"Siriondil awaits." He pointed and Denethor and he walked Faramir to the Harbor Master's quarters only a few short paces away.
Siriondil helped him to a bed in a corner of the room and knelt, feeling his head, then his pulse. "Boromir, help him take off his upper clothing."
Boromir nodded and helped his brother undress. Damrod took the shed clothes and mail and placed them on a nearby chair. Then, he bent and loosed the clasps on Faramir's boots and took them off.
Siriondil helped the boy lie down. Boromir and Denethor stood back, waiting. After a few moments, the healer said, "Send for a stretcher and a cart." He turned back at Faramir's cry of protest. "I do not know how you stayed ahorse as long as you did. Your fever is high. Damrod, when did this begin?"
"About a week ago. It spikes in the afternoon, quite high. A week's journey out of Pelargir."
"Nay. The first time."
"Ah! Near Tarnost. We stayed in the town for a fortnight whilst it raged unchecked. In the mornings he would be almost himself, but by afternoon the fever brought him down. I wanted to send for you but Faramir refused. It finally passed. Prince Imrahil had him thoroughly examined when we reached Dol Amroth. He was found fit."
Siriondil turned to Imrahil. "He was fit? There was no sign of a fever?"
"There was not," the prince stated. "He was examined thrice whilst he was with me. Once the day he arrived, the day he received the head-wound; once as a follow-up to that, to make certain he was healing; and again before he left Dol Amroth. I would not have allowed him to travel if I thought aught was amiss."
"What times were the examinations?"
"I do not understand."
"Were they in the mornings or the afternoons?"
"Mornings. Always mornings."
Siriondil shook his head and turned to Faramir. "Did you experience fever whilst in Dol Amroth?" he asked gently.
"I did not, but felt weak."
"Did your head hurt?"
"Of course. I had hit it hard on a marble bench. The ache has never left me."
"Did you tell Imrahil's healer?"
"I did at first. But afterwards did not. He said I had a concussed wound. I expected pain."
"Boromir, strip him."
Faramir made to protest but the healer would have none of it. "Have you any boils? Seeping wounds?"
"Good. That is fortunate for us, but I must examine you myself to make certain. Sometimes, before they open, they are not readily seen."
He moved Faramir's arms and examined the armpits, then moved his legs, and finally rolled him on his back, examining every part of him. At last he sighed. "I think we have caught it in time. I see no seeping wounds. You may help dress him, Boromir. Faramir," he turned again to the lad, "before you arrived in Tarnost, where did you stay?"
"Farms and villages along the way, or encamped in the valleys."
"Did you touch any farm animals? Did you drink any milk or perhaps ate local cheeses?"
Faramir held his hands to his eyes and rubbed them. "I ache," he whispered as Boromir buttoned his shirt. "Damrod?"
"I am here, Captain. Siriondil, we were offered goat's milk at a farm at the beginning of our journey. I did not take it, but Faramir did."
"What is wrong with him?" Denethor at last could stand the suspense no longer.
"I believe he has undulant fever. It can be treated. It is not acute, not yet. I will need special medicaments though. I have some in the Houses. Faramir, we must begin treatment immediately. You have had this for sometime. The longer we wait, the more difficult it will be to treat it."
Faramir nodded as they brought the stretcher in. He meekly let the men put him on it, take him from the room, and place him in a cart. He closed his eyes, but opened them as he felt someone sit next to him.
"Rest now, my son. All will be well."
Boromir never left Faramir's side. The mornings were pleasant and the brothers shared tales of their last trips in between Faramir's naps. Denethor's youngest was most interested in the new armor the Easterlings wore and his oldest was most concerned about Amandil and his retinue of female kin. The fever caused extreme fatigue, besides all its other manifestations, and Faramir slept most mornings away. But when afternoons came, Faramir was consumed by fever. At these times, Siriondil himself would attend the lad, using cold compresses to mitigate the damage. The two teas he used, from taheebo and chinchona bark, were given to Faramir four times a day. By the end of the second week, Denethor began to question his healer's competence.
"I have seen such fevers before; it is written in the archives as is the treatment. We are doing what is specified. There have been no wounds and that means the teas are reducing the affects of the ailment."
"Could it not be malaria? Mayhap you are treating the wrong sickness?" The Steward wondered.
"Even if my conclusion was incorrect, the teas would still heal him. This is a dangerous ailment that Faramir has contracted. If he is not tended rightly, serious damage will occur to the rest of his body. I know I am correct in saying this is undulant fever, Lord Denethor. Please trust me."
Denethor nodded and went back into Faramir's room. It was near to the time the fever usually worsened. But today, at last, Faramir rested. Denethor smiled at Boromir as the man stood and let his father take his place. "Well, you are looking a tad better, my son."
Faramir smiled weakly. "My head does not ache today."
"No chills?" Siriondil asked.
"Nay. Not today." He shivered.
Siriondil smiled and sat at the side opposite Denethor. "Then what is the shiver for?"
Looking at Denethor, he shivered again.
"What is it, my son? What ails you now?"
"I have not given my report." His voice whispered out the statement in horror.
"You just now remember that?" Siriondil asked.
"Never the mind, Faramir. Damrod handed them to me at the Harlond. Húrin and I and my captains have been studying them. Recommendations will be made at this month's Council."
"They were complete? You did not need further information?"
"The one on Pelargir was only thirty pages. I assumed you would add any further knowledge once you recovered."
Faramir's brow knit. "I cannot seem to recall what was in the report. I am dreadfully sorry, Father."
"Nay. I teased you, Faramir. The report was complete. Was more than complete as is your wont with all your reports. Do not trouble yourself."
"Will I stand before the Council?"
"Nay. We meet in a fortnight. I do not think you will have recovered enough to spend two grueling days with the likes of the Lords of Gondor. Boromir will attend and report back to you."
"The fever seems to have broken. This is very good," Siriondil sat back, pleased with himself. "We will continue the regimen of teas. Another four weeks or so and you should be released from the Houses."
"Four weeks!" Faramir tried to sit up, but Denethor gently held him down. "I must be off to the Causeway Forts. I was to oversee the repairs to the Rammas." He put his hand to his head and pushed against the pain that suddenly assailed him.
"You are going nowhere. I need you here to keep Mithrandir company. He begs daily for a game of 'Kings and Stewards' and then soundly thrashes me. I need respite from him."
"Mithrandir is here?" Faramir asked in wonder. "When did he arrive?"
"Years ago, it seems to me," Denethor smiled warmly. "He has oft asked after you."
Faramir cringed. "I did not ask him to come for my sake, Father. Remember? You ordered me to send for him."
Denethor's eyes misted at the look of fear on his son's face. "Be not concerned, Faramir. I well remember that it was I ordered him here. He is researching some things for me. I would have you help him, when you are better."
Faramir nodded, his hand once again at his temple.
"Since you are not assailed by the fever this afternoon, I think we should not assail you with things of Gondor, Faramir. Rest now." He placed a kiss on Faramir's brow. "Boromir. I would see you for the daymeal? Húrin will be present. I would like to review the list of items for the Council meeting."
His son began to protest, then nodded. "Damrod," the ever-present soldier stepped forward. "Will you stay with Faramir tonight?" The aide smiled and nodded. "I will leave you now, brother. Do not do anything foolish until I return. I would devise some scheme against father for the fright he just gave you."
Denethor looked in mock surprise. "I will leave you to your devising." He stood and embraced his oldest. "Do not leave him yet. Join me at the daymeal."
Boromir nodded and returned the embrace, then took his father's seat at Faramir's side. "You are not quite rid of me yet, little brother."
Loud shouts could be heard coming from the Council chambers. Denethor held his temper in check, but watched, as many times during the two-day meeting, Boromir stood and addressed those present. Denethor's heart fairly burst with pride. He had never seen his eldest so animated, so ready with his reports, and so easily at command of every rebuttal. By the end of the second day, he knew Boromir could, if need be, take the Stewardship. A soft glow lit his face as he left the chambers, oblivious to the chaos that surrounded him. He wanted to share this moment, to share it with his Finduilas. As he walked slowly back to his own rooms, he wondered if he dared take a moment and look at the past in the stone. If he could not speak with her, he could at least see her, perhaps when she was in the garden, holding Faramir in her arms, with Boromir asleep in her lap. He clenched his teeth as unimaginable pain pierced his heart. Loss mixed with love for her and pride for Boromir assailed him. He stopped and held the wall for a moment.
"Father?" A gentle, beloved voice pulled him from his reverie.
"Faramir? Are you allowed out of your bed?" Concern washed across his face as the remembered moment with Faramir in Finduilas' arms crossed his mind.
"I am. For a moment only. I wanted to be there, at the end. To see him."
The smile that lit Faramir's face was reflected on Denethor's. "He did well. Did you see the last parry with Amandil? The man never knew what hit him."
Faramir's smile turned downward. "He only showed him the folly of his thoughts. Boromir did not speak in anger or vindictiveness. Lord Amandil was left his dignity."
Denethor stood back a moment and looked at his youngest. "He has no dignity. He only cares for his fiefdom. He has no concern for Gondor. One day you will learn this, Faramir. That none but we, your brother, you and I, are the only ones who care for Gondor."
"Lord Amandil does have dignity, my father, in his own way. I did not think Boromir was unkind in his words."
"I saw it differently."
They walked slowly up the stairs towards Denethor's chambers.
Just as they reached the door, it opened and Boromir stepped forward, embracing his father. "Did you see that? Did you see how they finally agreed with you, Father? It was incredible. I have never felt so alive, even during a campaign. It was incredible," he repeated, his eyes shining with joy. "Faramir!" He embraced his brother. "Were you there? Oh! I am sorry. I did not see you. I wanted you so much to be there, to see all that we had practiced. It worked perfectly. They did just as you thought." He pulled back from the embrace. "You are wonderful! I could not have done this without your help. They would have never agreed, if I had presented your reports the way I wanted to. I can see that now! Thank you."
He held his brother again as Denethor looked on, first in bafflement and then, in anger as understanding dawned. "Come into my chambers. Both of you," he shut the door behind them firmly, more firmly than he wanted to as Boromir and Faramir looked at him in surprise. "Sit and tell me of what you speak, my son."
Faramir went to the sideboard and poured the wine. He brought one to Denethor and then handed one to Boromir, sitting next to his brother in peace. It had been a wondrous exhibition of statesmanship. Boromir was right; everything had gone as they had planned. But the joy of the moment was overshadowed by waves of... He knew not what he felt from his father, but he knew Denethor was disappointed in some way. What it could be about, he could not fathom.
Just at that moment, Imrahil was shown in. Mithrandir followed. Imrahil strode to Boromir's side and lifted the young man into a warm embrace. "Excellent! Truly excellent. Not only did you speak well, you carried yourself well. I am most impressed." He turned to Denethor. "Well, what have you to say about these sons of yours? Are they not a force to be reckoned with? When Boromir becomes Steward and Faramir his Councilor, all Gondor will know they are almost as formidable as their father. You must be proud; I know I am."
The wizard, too, patted Boromir on the back, then turned and smiled warmly at Faramir. "Your reports were well written, as I have said before. They gave Boromir a strong foundation to use. Not to abuse the Councilors but to open their eyes." He turned towards Denethor. "To think that the men and coin that had been promised to Faramir during his recent journey has been doubled is a feat that was well worth the hours we spent together devising a rebuttal to their concerns. Indeed, as Prince Imrahil states, you must be very proud of them." The eyes that met his were angry and Mithrandir drew in a sharp, albeit silent breath.
"I am proud, as I always have been, of both my sons. It has been a tiring two days, along with the weeks before in preparation. Mayhap we might rejoice tomorrow. If you do not mind, we can speak as we break our fast together? At the third bell, then?"
Imrahil and Mithrandir both raised eyebrows at the coolness of the Steward, but both nodded and made to leave. Imrahil stopped and looked back at Faramir. "Your reports were excellent. Congratulations! And to you also, Boromir. You held yourself well against your seniors."
Both boys smiled as their uncle left the room. Boromir stood and walked to the sideboard, pouring himself another glass of wine. He looked to Denethor, but his father shook his head. Boromir turned to Faramir. "I do not think, little brother, that you should have anymore. In fact, I think you best get yourself back to your bed before the healers come searching for you. Are you well? You look tired."
"I am fine. I would not have missed that last moment for all the tea in Harad! But I am tired. Father," he turned towards Denethor, "by your leave, I would retire."
Denethor nodded, hardly acknowledging the man. He was deep in thought.
Faramir looked quizzically at Boromir, who shrugged, embraced him and shooed him out the door.
Sitting back on the settle with a fresh glass of wine, he waited. He was familiar with this mood that was upon his father, but could not surmise the why of it. All had gone as they had planned. "The Councilors saw the incontestable logic of what we presented. They had no choice but to accept. Is this not what you wanted accomplished?"
"It is. It is. I am tired, Boromir. The festival is tomorrow and I would spend some time tonight in peace and rest. If you do not mind, I will see you on the morrow."
Boromir emptied his glass, watching his father over the rim. At last, he stood and embraced him. "Rest then, Father. If you need me... Well, I will see you at the third bell." He stepped away from the unreturned embrace, turned and left the room.
Denethor could see his son's shoulders slump, and he wanted to say something; however, the feeling of betrayal sat in his stomach and made him nauseous. He waited until Boromir left, then turned and walked to Finduilas' garden. Despite the early autumn heat, he pulled his cloak tightly about him. A shiver ran through him as tears fell.
He saw before him another meeting in the very study he had just left, the study that had been his own father's, Ecthelion's, before he died. There stood his father, Thorongil, Adrahil, and Mithrandir. All talking animatedly about a Council just adjourned. He stood in the background, as was his wont when these men met. He felt a third thumb. They did not include him in their excited talk of the victory they had just won. They had not listened when he had addressed them before the meeting, airing his concerns about the proposal. Now, they did not even acknowledge his presence. He bit his lip and walked quietly away. None noticed.
He held his sides, weeping in disbelief. The same had now happened. His own sons had aligned with the wizard against him. Nay, he shook his head. It is not the same. My sons love me, unlike my father. They would not betray me nor collude with the enemy. They did what they felt they needed to do to attain his goals. He kept telling himself that, over and over, until his head ached, but his heart only felt the pain of that meeting so very long ago.
At that time, he had had Finduilas to turn to for succor and support. He needed her so desperately. Though she was now gone from him these past thirty years, the pain of her absence still ran through his veins. He left the garden and strode towards the upper room.
Húrin stepped into his path. "I am sorry to disturb you at this late hour, my Lord Denethor," the Warden of the Keys began, "but Lord Amandil has taken ill. Siriondil requests your presence in the Councilor's quarters."
Denethor's lips pursed. Eventually, he nodded. "Take me there."
As they walked, Húrin's enthusiasm flared. "I have never seen Boromir so animated. His thrusts and parries against all naysayers were astounding. Did you grill him beforehand? You must have! Very good idea. You must be proud. I, as a member of the House of Húrin, am!"
Denethor grumbled and Húrin knew better than to speak again. They reached the quarters assigned to Lord Amandil and the guard opened the doors.
Siriondil met them as they moved towards the sick man's room. "I am not quite certain of what the matter might be. He does not seem as ill as he says he is. Mayhap something he ate tonight? I am baffled. In fact, I might even say he was..." the healer blushed, "faking an illness."
Denethor's brow raised and a small smile touched the corners of his mouth. "Faking? Well, I will let you know. Stay here and I will see him alone." He strode into the room and sat on a chair next to the bed. Amandil made as if to rise, but Denethor motioned for him to remain still. The obvious show of weakness was not lost upon the Steward. However, he bowed his head. "I am most distressed to hear of this sudden illness, Lord Amandil. You looked well enough at the Council meeting. My Master Healer thinks you are quite ill though. If there is aught I can do for you?"
"My Lord Denethor. It does my heart good to see you here. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your concern. It is only a little thing," he coughed gently. "I am getting on in years, you know. The trip was long, perhaps more tiring than I had thought. Another week or maybe even a fortnight of your hospitality should help." Another gentle cough.
The man closed his eyes and missed the smirk on Denethor's face. "A fortnight at least, my Lord Amandil. And your granddaughter and niece will stay also. Nay!" he put up his hand to stay the protest. "I cannot let them travel home alone, without you as their escort and chaperone. It would be unseemly."
"I had not thought of that, but I see you speak wisely, as always," the man acquiesced.
"Then it will be done. You will remain here in Minas Tirith along with your young charges for the next fortnight at least. It is a shame, however, that Boromir will not be available to show the women our fair City. He is due to leave tomorrow for an inspection of Osgiliath. Ah! How I wish I had known earlier that you would be staying; I would have arranged his schedule differently."
The old lord's obvious disappointment tickled Denethor, but none looking at the sorrow on the Steward's face would ever know it. "If you would permit my Warden, Húrin, to accompany the women during your convalescence?"
Amandil closed his eyes in consternation. "As you wish it, my Lord Steward. However, I am beginning to feel better. The teas your wonderful healer gave me seem to be dispelling the illness. I think we will leave in the morning after all."
Denethor had to clench every sinew in his body not to burst forth in laughter. At last, feigning distress at Amandil's decision, he bowed and left the man. He waved to Siriondil and, without a word, left the old lord's chambers. Once outside, he strode rapidly to the parapet and leaned upon it. Tears filled his eyes and a great shout exploded from him.
Húrin, who had run after him in concern, stepped forward. "My Lord Steward. Is the news that dire? Is Lord Amandil near death?" Again another shout ripped from Denethor. His shoulders began to shake as the laughter finally found an escape. Húrin misunderstood. "Oh, Denethor. I did not know you were so close to Amandil. He is dying then?" He sat on a nearby marble bench and bent his head in sorrow.
"Nay," Denethor gasped between silent laughter. "He is well and a curmudgeon. He thought to trick me into giving Boromir to one of his family. He feigned illness! I am still astounded at his effrontery!" He sat next to his Warden. "When I was young, I do not know if you remember, he wanted me to marry his daughter. His political needs have yet to be fulfilled. He is well, Húrin, and will be returning to Pelargir with his whole entourage tomorrow. But thank you for your kindness towards him. You are too good."
Húrin lifted his head. "I am not. My only concern was for you, Denethor. I love you as a son."
Denethor stared at the man. True, Húrin was older than he was, and related, but he had never felt anything towards the man, except respect for his knowledge of Gondor and its needs. "Thank you, Húrin. I will remember that. I thought I was tired before; now, I am exhausted. I will see you at the third bell."
Húrin nodded as the Steward left. He sat back, sadness still filling his eyes. 'He looks older than I do.'
"Nay." Boromir's tone was quiet, hurt, angry, frustrated; he felt defeated.
"Whether you agree or no," Denethor whispered, "it cannot be helped."
"When will you tell him? When will he leave?"
"He is on his way here now. His assignment begins tomorrow. I waited until you returned from Osgiliath."
Boromir took in a deep breath. "I do not want to be here when you tell him. I will leave you alone. He should learn it without my doubt filling the air."
"I would that you would stay. Fight your doubt. Be strong for him."
Boromir shivered and it broke Denethor's heart. "I have never been strong when you send him... He is still a boy, in my eyes."
"As you both are in mine. Yet, it cannot be helped. What am I to do, Boromir? It is the way of a father. Encourage his sons, teach them everything he can and then... send them out." He shivered himself.
"We will all die, will we not?"
"All men die, Boromir."
"You said he would die if given the captaincy of Osgiliath. Yet, he did not."
"He never took the captaincy, as you well know."
"There was the ambush in Ithilien, Dol Amroth, and then the fever... he still lives."
"Are you listing how many times he has been saved? The odds makers would not look kindly at such a wager."
"I myself should not be alive, if one looks at odds, Boromir. Why are you so distraught? He is well trained. You had a hand in that, not only with the lessons you gave him, but also with choosing the best masters in each discipline. He is second only to you. I can no longer best either of you."
"He was to be my Councilor, not my Captain-General. Mithrandir says that if you have a great jewel, you should guard it with your life."
"I have met with him. And with Faramir. He is looking for something in the library. Spends most of his time there." Boromir looked up in surprise. "Do not change the subject, Father. I am not one of your lackeys, witless to your wiles."
Denethor's eyes blazed. "You are my Captain-General. This order has been expected. In fact," and Denethor paused for a moment, "you will give the order. It is only fitting."
Boromir stood and roared. "Now you give me leave to order the men about! Now you deem me the commander of your armies! Now you... Ever have I asked for the full authority of my station and ever have you denied me." His hand clenched upon his sword's hilt. "I will give the command. I will give the promotion to Faramir. I will watch as he rides to what will likely be the place of his death, but you will not have me command him any further than that. I swear by the Valar, I will not send him to his death. I will send Damrod and Mablung with him to shadow him, whether he likes it or no. I am the one who will die, if one of us must; I will not let Faramir die." He saluted Denethor and left the room.
Faramir was just coming up the steps. Boromir took his arm and led him away. The younger man saw the rage in his brother's eyes and stilled any questions. They would be answered in due time.
Boromir walked to the stables and ordered two horses saddled. He sent a boy to the kitchens; by the time the horses were ready, a pack filled with food was brought to him. He hitched it to the back of his stallion and jumped on. Silently he nodded and Faramir mounted the second horse.
Slowly, they made their way to the First Level. At the Great Gate, the last password was given and Boromir spurred his horse into a gallop before the gate was fully opened. Faramir shook his head and followed, trying to catch up to the fury that rode ahead of him.
They rode hard for a quarter of an hour, then Boromir pulled back on his reins and slowed the horse. Faramir waited, hoping that whatever had caused this flight from their father would be explained. But no such explanation was at hand. At least, not yet. Boromir indeed slowed his horse to a walk, but he refused to answer any of Faramir's questions.
Faramir saw Boromir's shoulders square and realized that his brother had come to the end of a long and difficult battle within himself. A small sad smile crossed his face. He loved his brother beyond any thought or reason, but knew him too well. Either another marriage was in the offing, probably to one of Lord Amandil's kin, or Faramir was to be stationed... A quick sudden shudder racked his body. It was about him! He was going to be stationed somewhere and Boromir was afraid for him. For a moment he wondered. Osgiliath? Nay, that had already been discussed and Boromir had not reacted this violently to such a posting. Henneth-Annûn. So he was being sent to the secret fortress in Ithilien. He pulled his horse up. He would not let Boromir suffer needlessly.
His brother turned in surprise when he realized Faramir was not riding next to him. "I did not order a halt."
His voice was taut and gruff, as if he had been... Faramir shook his head. "It is useless, Boromir. I know what father wants of me. Let us sit and spend some time together. It may be the last for a long time. I do not want my last moments with you spent looking at your back."
Boromir lowered his head in defeat. "Ride just a little further. There is a stream nearby. I thought we might share our meal there. Once, we fished there, just you and I."
Faramir could see that Boromir was miserable. He rode with him for another quarter hour and then turned off the road as Boromir led them to a stream. He smiled as he recalled where they were. "I think this is the stream I fell into when we fished it," he chuckled quietly.
"The same one."
Faramir shrugged at the non-committal reply. "What have you got for us?" he asked once he dismounted. Boromir handed him the pack. Faramir pursed his lips. So, his brother was going to be tight-lipped still. He rummaged through the victuals and found two honeyed biscuits. He broke one in half and popped it in his mouth.
"That was dessert," Boromir stated dryly.
"It matters not if I eat it first or last. It still tastes good."
A chuckle escaped.
Faramir smiled. Good! If anyone knew how to make Boromir laugh, he could. "I refuse to fall into the water again, just to give you a laugh."
Boromir merely sat by the stream's edge. He shook his head in dismay. "There is no time for laughter today, little brother."
"I think that is the problem."
"What?" Boromir asked in consternation.
"You continue to call me little brother and yet we are the same height, though you might be broader by a tad. I think you should call me Faramir from now on."
Sorrow engulfed Boromir and he hung his head. "You will always be my little brother. It has nothing to do with size." The elder brother held his chin in his hands, his elbows dug into his knees.
"Boromir, do you have such little faith in me?"
At that, his older brother looked up. "It is Orcs I have faith in. Shall I tell you of the last battles I saw? Shall... Never mind. You have seen the same."
"I will make you a promise, big brother." Faramir smiled and changed his tactics. "When we fish, how often do we catch one?"
Boromir smiled. "Not as often as I would wish. You best me most times."
"We can fish whole days and never catch one. I will be like those fish, Boromir, I promise. I will watch and not take the bait offered. I will hide in eddies and pools, hide in their shadows so none can find me. I will listen to the voice that you have put within me and focus on where I am and what I am about. I will not fail you."
"Oh, Faramir! It has naught to do with failure. Do we speak of a dead warrior as having failed because he is dead? Nay. I would not think such of you. I need you. It is as simple as that. I need your friendship and your love and your support. I need to know there is someone who waits for me and hopes I will return."
Boromir shivered. "There are times... Father has succumbed to Gondor. I think he only loves her."
"He loves you."
"Because I can protect Gondor, at least for the nonce."
"That is not the only reason, Boromir."
"It is because I am a great warrior who will take over the Stewardship when he dies. The one who, he hopes, will save Gondor."
Faramir was silent. "I will help you, Boromir. I will keep the enemy harried in Ithilien. They will be so busy fighting my Rangers and me, they will not have time to put a plan into action, nor listen to - "
"Say it not, Faramir! Father says the Enemy sees more than we will ever know. I think it best not to challenge him."
"I will not, Boromir. But I will not make it easy for him. Let us vow to meet once a month, if possible. Perhaps at Osgiliath? What think you of that?"
"A fair plan, if father does not put obstacles before us. The last day of Hísimë?"
"A good date. I will see you in Osgiliath then. And I expect a bottle of one of father's choicest wines."
Boromir laughed. "It will be done."
A/N - Sorry for the long author's notes... but the disease Faramir has contracted, though rare, is known. The below notes about acute brucellosis were not exhibited by Faramir. I used the symptoms that are most common and also highest - 80% or above. He was a healthy young man and the disease was diagnosed and treated before other symptoms could occur. Thankfully!
Onset of brucellosis (undulant fever) is usually insidious, but the disease course falls into two distinct phases. Characteristically, the acute phase causes fever, chills, profuse sweating, fatigue, headache... Despite this disease's common name... few patients have a truly intermittent (undulant) fever; in fact, fever is commonly insignificant. It may be observed if the patient goes without treatment for a long time. Fever is the most common symptom and sign of brucellosis... intermittent in 60% of patients with acute and chronic conditions and undulant in 60% of patients with subacute brucellosis. Fever can be associated with a relative bradycardia. It is associated with chills in almost 80% of cases. Constitutional symptoms... fatigue, weakness, and malaise and are very common (>90% of cases). Bone and joint symptoms include arthralgias, low back pain, spine and joint pain, and, rarely, joint swelling. These symptoms affect as many as 55% of patients. Neuropsychiatric symptoms are frequent despite the rare involvement of the nervous system. Headache, depression, and fatigue are the most frequently reported neuropsychiatric symptoms. Gastrointestinal symptoms, present in 50% of patients, include abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, and vomiting. Neurologic symptoms can include weakness, dizziness, unsteadiness of gait, and urinary retention. Symptoms associated with cranial nerve dysfunction may affect persons with chronic CNS involvement. Respiratory symptoms of cough and dyspnea are present in as many as 19% of persons; however, these symptoms are rarely associated with active pulmonary involvement. Though this disease is rare in the United States, it is well-known in other parts of the world. http://wrongdiagnosis.com/b/brucellosis/book-diseases-7a.htm
Pau d'arco, or the inner bark of the Tabebuia avellanedae tree... Preliminary laboratory research... is beginning to suggest that the traditional uses may have scientific merit. Such laboratory studies have shown that pau d'arco has pain killing, diuretic, anti-inflammatory, anti-infectious, anti-psoriatic, and anti-cancer abilities. Taking this early data, combined with information collected about traditional uses, herbalists may recommend pau d'arco to treat or prevent a number of conditions, including candidiasis (a yeast infection of the vaginal or oral areas), herpes simplex virus, influenza, parasitic diseases such as schistosomiasis, bacterial infections such as brucellosis, and inflammation of the cervix (cervicitis) or the vagina (vaginitis). http://www.taumed.com/content/adam/browse.jsp?pid=33&cid=000268 and Taheebo tea - http://www.pau-d-arco.com/
"Quinine is derived from the bark of the chinchona tree. In the early seventeenth century, Jesuit missionary priests in Central America were known to chew the bark of trees as a way to distinguish between them. The bark of the chinchona tree was noted to relieve the symptoms (fever) of malaria, which was endemic to that area... By the 1670s, the bark was being used throughout Europe. In the mid 1700s, the French explorer De la Condamine identified the tree and named it quinquina (the word comes from quina, which is Peruvian vernacular for chinchona). In 1852, a Dutch expedition succeeded in transplanting chinchona seeds and plants to Java in the Dutch East Indies. By the end of that century, 90 percent of the world's supply of quinine came from Java.1,2..." http://www.accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aID=3002922
A/N - Hísimë would run between 22 October and 20 November.http://www.glyphweb.com/arda/h/hisime.html
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.