I turned to meet the anxious gaze of Peregrin, the most recent acquisition of the Tower Guard. Strange to see him here, of all people, the creature whose vow I accepted for sheer whim, but nevertheless the only one to stay with me in one of my darkest hours. Life is one huge jest…
“What is it, Peregrin?”
He pulled a face. “Pray call me Pippin, my lord.”
“May I ask why you prefer this name? Is Peregrin not a more dignified version?”
“Sure thing, but that is what my Father used to call me when I was a child, after some neighbour complained about me getting into his garden, or throwing pebbles at his little daughter, or something as nasty as that, and then…” he stopped, flushed scarlet.
“And then?” I was getting quite amused, despite the situation.
“And then he would make me clean the windows until you couldn’t see there were any panes there,” he sighed, then gave me a watery smile.
“I made my sons help at the kitchens if they did any mischief.”
“Was it a PUNISHMENT?!”
“No, YOU come in and tell your Father all about it! And I will just hope you will receive at least twenty lashes each! No, thirty would be just fine for Boromir!” It was Linwen’s enraged voice, sounding from the hallway.
“Why thirty for me? Faramir broke more of them!” my older son wailed.
“Now don’t tell me it was your little brother’s brilliant idea! In there, you pair of trolls! No, I fear I am offending poor sweet trolls by saying that!”
I noted with a smile that until lately my children were referred to as Orcs. What was it now? The last time it was climbing the rope down a wall at the Houses of Healing to have a look at some nest. My knees had turned into jelly when I saw the drop and pictured the two of them lying down there… I had slumped heavily against the wall, the air suddenly becoming dense and sticky, my hands gripping the grass. Only after some time had I been aware of Boromir gently shaking my shoulder, his brother eyeing me warily from behind.
They both had been pale as death, obviously scared to see me like that. I sent them to their rooms, unable to think of a fitting punishment, but it seemed later it was not needed, for the boys stayed out of everyone’s sight until the very end of the day, and were unusually sheepish for at least a week after. Then there was an archery contest in the poultry-yard, and chasing one of the noble’s daughter around the stables until she toppled down into a horse trough and screamed so loudly everyone thought she had at least broken something (that was closely followed by a visit from an angry mother), and then a number of other calamities that brought me almost to the end of my tether. There were times when I just could not simply smile at another story of the kind, and seriously questioned my own adequacy as a father, for they seemed to pay little heed to my dressing downs, though they pretended to look so miserable when brought before my eyes!
It appeared that this time they had engaged themselves into throwing stones at one of the stained glass windows depicting Isildur cutting the Ring off the Enemy’s hand. Apparently, by the time one of the Guards caught them in the act, Boromir had hit seven little panes and Faramir thirteen, the latter unsuccessfully trying to hide his triumphant grin. The boy had a very sharp eye indeed.
“Now, my lord, I think it is time these two knew the feeling of a whip on their backs,” Linwen concluded, having recounted the events, her eyes flashing green. She then turned around and swept away in a flurry of her skirts.
My sons were watching me uncertainly, heads bowed, Boromir’s hands clasped nervously, Faramir fidgeting with a clasp of his belt.
“Now,” I started patiently, “who was the first to think of doing that? You, Boromir?” I was quite certain of an affirmative for an answer, Boromir always being the instigator of all the mischiefs.
Hardly had he had the time to collect his wits when I heard Faramir, speaking softly but clearly, “No Father, it was me.”
“Was it you, Faramir?” I gaped at my younger son in astonishment.
“Yes,” he whispered and lowered his head.
I sighed. “Boromir, you will spend five days helping the kitchenmaids. You may start right now. Silence!” I said, seeing he was about to protest. “Now off with you. I want to talk to your brother alone.”
He wheeled out of the chamber with great relief plainly written on his flushed face. Faramir stole an apprehensive look at me. I sighed again. To say I did not look forward to the task before me would be a great exaggeration.
“It pains me so to say this to you, Faramir, but you have gravely disappointed me today. I never expected it from you, to behave in such irreverent and irresponsible manner.” I was still sitting at my desk, it being a barrier between us, and he looked remarkably small and vulnerable in the vast chamber. I left my chair and stepped closer to him. “Now remind me, what was it you said to Linwen when she brought you your hot milk yesterday night?”
He whispered something.
“Louder, Faramir! And look at me!” I commanded, starting to hate myself for making my child so unhappy.
“That… that I was too old for that… that I was not a baby anymore…” came the answer finally.
“Hmm…” I mused. “Too old to drink your milk and still not old enough to come to respect certain things? Do you realise that what you have done today was far beyond your earlier escapades? Son, it is one thing to pull girls’ hair or shoot at the geese and quite another to treat with disrespect things that the whole generations of your ancestors have held sacred over centuries.”
He was silent still, eyeing a crack in the stone floor.
“Faramir, one day you will have to lead people after you. You will never be able to truly command them if they have but a slightest suspicion that you are not a man of honour, responsible and of a high quality. Should you fail in this, you will be failing your City and your land, and your people, too.”
His eyes met mine, and the look in them was so desolate I almost succumbed to a sudden desire to take him in my arms. But this would be unwise. I expected tears and apologies, but none came.
“From now on, you are to attend all the Council Meetings with me and take notes of everything being said at them,” I announced the punishment. “Later, I am going to go over your records with you, to ensure you have understood everything. Now go to your room. You will stay there for the rest of the day.”
I came to check on him before retiring to bed, feeling slightly troubled. I hated to inflict any pain on my children, but certain things were not to be tolerated. I had seen Boromir before that; he just frowned at me and dipped another huge serving dish into the basin. Linwen was nowhere to be found. I just hoped she had been with Faramir earlier and comforted him a bit.
He was sitting on the floor staring into the flames. Everyone in the household got thoroughly fed up with reminding him of the harm the habit could do to his eyes, as well as could his reading to dim candlelight, but it looked like that took little effect. During the day there would not be enough time to read, there being so many things to do: smashing windows, shooting the poultry… oh, yes, there were lessons too, both in the schoolroom and at the practice grounds, but those were of minor concern, of course. So Linwen and I repeatedly lectured to him on the effects of late reading, Boromir teased him, but all were amazed at the sudden stubbornness of our little boy. Not so little any longer; he had already turned nine, and was quite tall for his age. Clever, too; his tutors never stopped singing praise to his remarkable classroom achievements. He was also able to keep a good aim, though the sword was clearly not his weapon. Every time he looked at one, there was exasperation mixed with distaste in his eyes, and he wielded it skilfully, but with obvious reluctance.
“Faramir?” I called him uncertainly.
His head turned with a jerk, and he slowly climbed to his knees, but did not utter a word.
“Please stop gazing at the fire. You will give yourself a headache, and you know it is bad for your eyes,” I reached to touch his cheek, but he made away, then said with feigned indifference, “As if anyone cared.”
I sighed, for a thousandth time this day. As if there were not enough trouble around, here was my younger son obviously cross with me.
I absently thought that Boromir’s frown had not disturbed me as much as did the hurt look in his brother’s eyes. Where was Linwen? She would surely know how to handle Faramir. She always did. Was it because she was young or a woman? Or did she simply spend more time with them?
My son looked positively uncomfortable. I made another attempt.
“I am sorry that I had to say all those words to you earlier, Faramir. But--”
“I understand, Father,” he interrupted. “It was my fault. I promise I will do nothing of the kind in the future. You will never have to be ashamed of me.” His voice was so flat I got alarmed.
“But I am not!” I cried. “You have made a mistake, son, but that does not mean my feelings towards you have changed.”
“Please, Father, I want to be alone.”
But you are, always, I wanted to cry. Your brother now has his own lessons, which means less time spent with you, I am occupied with the affairs of state most of the day, Linwen’s mind seems to be dwelling elsewhere these days… And you yourself have built a wall around you and would not let anyone in. I have been just a poor excuse for a father, all those years since Finduilas died, not to have noticed that earlier!
But no words came. I looked at him sorrowfully, then planted a quick kiss on the top of his head and left.
“So you want me to talk to him,” Linwen stated.
“Please? Linwen, I tried, but he plainly did not want me.”
“Oh, all right,” she heaved an exasperated sigh. “May I suggest that you go and see Boromir? That will do you good. You look so miserable!”
“Well, would you not if you could not reach your own child,” I grumbled, then went to Boromir’s chamber.
The heir to the Stewardship was sprawled across the bed, lying on his belly, casually flipping through the pages of some book of sketches.
“What is that?” I asked, pointing to the book. He surprised me by blushing deeply and mumbling something under his breath. I reached over and took the book from him.
It appeared Finduilas’s collection of sketches of Dol Amroth, ships, the sea, gulls and other birds, buildings, people… I smiled and returned the book to him. “It is all right, son. Keep the book if you will.”
He nodded his gratitude, then asked uncertainly, “Have you thought of marrying again after Mother died?”
I had been expecting the question from someone for quite a while, so it did not come as a big surprise from my son. “No, I have not, Boromir. At first, it was too painful to even think about, and then there was too much to occupy my mind with. Moreover, you and your brother might have not liked another woman in place of your Mother.”
“I think you should have found someone,” he whispered.
“But why? I was sure you at least would disapprove.”
“I might have, but it would have done Faramir good.”
“How? He does not seem very forthcoming even with me.”
Boromir fidgeted helplessly, his mind obviously in search of words. “I cannot explain… it is so hard, Father…” he wrung his hands as if in despair, “he misses Mother, but does not even know about it…”
“Peace, Boromir, it will be all right. I sent Linwen to talk to him, she is sure to help. Now go to sleep, you must be tired after your kitchen duties.” I smiled at him a little teasingly. He frowned again.
“I am sorry about the thing, Father. I was most irresponsible to keep up that stupid game, and now Faramir got all the blame! I feel so wretched! Oh yes,” he grunted, “Linwen told me everything about you and Faramir. You should not have said such things to him, Father. He takes them too seriously and they pain him so much! Please go and try to talk to him, please!”
“I have tried, Boromir, but he said he wanted to be alone. All right, all right,” I conceded, seeing he was about to put forth more reasons, “I will talk to him again. Now sleep, son, and sweet dreams to you.” I bent over him and kissed him on the cheek, earning an indignant look and a hiss, “Father, please! I am not a three-year-old!”
I just smiled and left him to sleep with his Mother’s book tucked under the pillow.
Linwen was waiting for me in the hallway, a slight frown disfiguring her smooth brow.
I was instantly anxious. “How is he?”
“In bed. Not sleeping and not likely to for some time.”
“What is happening, Linwen?” I lamented. “Do you also think I should have married again?” And I recounted my talk with Boromir to her.
Linwen paced along the hallway, I followed in her wake. “Boromir knows what is wrong, he is just too young to put his feelings into words. What he meant to say was that Faramir was bereft of a mother’s love, though he seems to remember little of the Lady Finduilas by now. My lord, how many times did Boromir bring his troubles to you when your wife was alive?”
“Not really often… why?”
“I mean that he had his mother to confide in when you did not have time. Your younger son had no one. I was but a poor substitute, a mere girl they treated rather as a friend figure, too young and inexperienced. That is why he withdrew into himself so much. Also, he believes you think him inferior to his brother as he is not so good at swords and… and irresponsible and a dishonour to you.”
“What?!” I gasped. “However did he come about such ideas?”
“He said you told him so.”
Linwen kept her eyes down, but I could all too well feel the disapproval behind her calm façade. I felt sick at heart remembering the words I had said to Faramir earlier in the day.
“No… oh, no… what am I to do now, Linwen?” I groaned.
“Why, go and do something about it. And right now, I think.”
“But what if he refuses to speak again?”
She stopped and turned to face me. “Then press on. That was what I did, do you think he just poured everything to me?” She fidgeted with her girdle, then breathed out, “I am engaged to be married, my lord. That will mean me lost to him as well.”
I was dumbstruck. I was certainly aware of the fact that Linwen was a pretty, smart and passionate girl who would start a family of her own one day, but had always comforted myself with the thought that it would happen some other day.
“My lord?” she said, almost in a whisper.
“Well, Linwen,” I smiled at her, “I wish you a lot of joy. Who is your husband-to-be?”
“I doubt you know him. He’s from Rohan, we met when he was visiting a friend in the City.”
I chuckled. “The men of Gondor are going to regret their lack of clear sight.”
We stopped at the door to Faramir’s chamber.
“Good luck, my lord,” said Linwen and was off.
Faramir was lying on his back, which was a bad sign in itself, as he preferred to sleep curled on his right side. I sat on the edge of the bed and caught his unhappy gaze.
“Cannot sleep?” I asked, touching his face.
He shook his head, then whispered, “I have a headache.”
I smiled, trying to look reassuring. “See what comes after not listening to your dull old Father when he grumbles about looking into the fire? Would you like me to fetch some brew from the healers?”
“No,” he said, still in a whisper. “It will pass.”
“Faramir,” I started hesitantly, “would you care for a ride to the River with me tomorrow?”
“Boromir might be busy, he is going to have his additional sparring, is he not?”
“Yes, but I want to go with you alone.”
He stared at me in disbelief. “Me alone? But why?”
“Because I feel I have been neglecting my duties towards you for far too long, son. No, I want you to hear this. Linwen has just told me that you believed I thought you unworthy. That is not true, Faramir. You know I would not be lying to you about so serious a matter. I realize we have drifted apart a little, you and me, but we have to try and mend it as best we can, for are you not my son? There will be enemies enough for us to fight, so fighting each other is not the best idea of all.”
I gathered him into a tight embrace, feeling his tense body relax gradually in my arms.
“I still do not have your answer. Will you come for a ride with me or not?”
He pulled away a little, giving me a weak smile. “Yes, Father. Thank you.”
“Thank you, my lord,” I laughed with relief.
And then there was a truly blissful day on the riverbank, filled with swimming, eating, lying lazily in the sun, feeble attempts at fishing that neither of us excelled at, and talking, about everything, including Linwen and her coming marriage, Boromir’s coming departure for the army and our concerns about that, the recent book Faramir had read… and still, even throughout this happy time, there was a hidden sadness in his eyes, a sorrow I had not noticed earlier.
He dozed off in the warm sun, and I put him in my own saddle for the way home, and something whispered in my ear that I should treasure these moments. For the time was nearing when this child of mine too will start on his way into the perilous life of a grown man.
Peregrin looked at me, his eyes full of tears.
“Forgive me, my lord,” he said.
“Forgive you, Peregrin?”
“For thinking of you so badly, my lord.” A tear rolled slowly down his cheek. I held out my hand and wiped it away.
“You were not the only one to do so. All of them still think me a monster.”
He straightened. “Then allow me to be the first to deeply regret these thoughts.”
I smiled at his formal way of putting it, then turned to Faramir again.
“I love you, child.”
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.