4. Chapter 4
Pippin had dozed off in the corner. He will be stiff all over when he awakes, I thought absently, my hand still stroking Faramir’s limp arm. My son’s breath now was very shallow and uneven; at times he would move his lips as if wanting to say something, once or twice I even caught a faint whisper. It sounded like ‘dark’.
I dipped a cloth in the basin of cold water and wiped his flushed face. An hour ago he would still react to the cold touch; now he lay completely immobile, oblivious to everything.
I felt my eyes fill with tears. I had thought that the loss of Boromir was the most terrible thing that could ever happen to me; the loss of my ever-active, lively, noisy boy who loved life so much. But somehow this was even more unbearable. With Boromir, we parted with a loving embrace; all that Faramir got from me in our last moments together was unforgivably cruel words.
“You cannot die like this, child,” I whispered, once again resisting the desire to just collapse by the bed and wail like a wild animal. “You must not…”
“…And then she just squeaked and got on top of me, and she said she liked it better that way, and you know, it was a little odd, I’d never tried it like this with any woman,” Boromir recounted excitedly.
Then there was a whisper, followed by a vigorous and disbelieving “No!” from his brother.
“But that’s disgusting!” Faramir exclaimed. “No, it would surely be not for me, Boromir.”
I had to suppress a chuckle at his shock. My otherwise very learned and sophisticated fifteen-year-old seemed a complete ignoramus concerning a couple of earthly things. At his age, Boromir had been chasing both maids and daughters of nobility (I only presume that it was not hair-pulling he had in his mind).
“Not at all!” Boromir protested. “It’s… oh, you would be better at telling all about it, I’m certain. By the way… have you? You know, with a girl?”
There was no answer, at least no audible one, for in an instant there was a triumphant yell from the big brother, then the sound of a hand clapping what seemed to be Faramir’s back, and the words, “I knew there was some hope for you after all. Who was she?”
Another pause followed.
“Wow… is that really true? If it is, then you are lucky, she is said to do wonders in bed! Can teach you a lot, too. They also have a new lass there, a blond one. But then, I’ve never been into blonds. Would be interesting to try, though.”
“I don’t know, brother,” Faramir said hesitantly. “Blonds are said to be so cold and boring… I like darker girls: long black hair, and it tickles you everywhere, and long dark eyelashes… mmm… No, I don’t like blonds.”
“Do not be so rash as to say such things, Faramir,” I said, stepping into the chamber, “or you might get a blond for a wife, as a punishment, you know.”
“Father!” they both gasped and went completely red. I thoroughly enjoyed the moment, because for some time my sons had been unbearably ‘proper’, their manners impeccable, especially with me.
It was quite clear with Boromir: he tried to live up to his new persona, and as for Faramir, the boy had just been striving to copy his older brother as much as possible since the former returned for a short leave. Frankly speaking, I often wistfully looked back to the times when they would have chased other children along the hallways. It gave me enormous pleasure to have caught them off guard like this, sitting on the rug in front of the fire with a plate of cakes between them. I would expect at least some wine for these great lovers.
“That is not fair, Father!” Boromir lamented. “You’ve been eavesdropping! That is… undignified!”
He seemed shocked at the thought of the Steward of Gondor sneaking behind doors trying to overhear his sons’ private talks.
“Peace. I only heard the last words,” I lied, to put them on their ease. “But I meant what I said to you, Faramir. Just imagine being stuck with a person you find cold and boring.”
He looked obviously frightened of the thought. “But Father…” he groaned miserably, “do I have to marry at all? I don’t think I would want that.”
Of course you would not, at fifteen! I smiled inwardly, but decided to tease them both a little more. “But the two of you will have to, eventually.”
Had I told them I was planning to cook them both for supper, they would not have looked so deathly pale. They exchanged horrified glances, Boromir looking absolutely shattered as he realized that for him the time was even nearer than for his brother. And I was merciless.
“It is especially important in your case, Boromir, as you are the Heir to the Stewardship.”
“I would so much like to pass the gift to Faramir,” he grumbled.
Faramir looked aghast at the thought. “You will do no such thing!”
Finally, I could not keep from the laughter that had been bubbling inside me, and it burst from me like a wave. My sons looked much relieved, though a little wary still. I sat down on the floor and reached for a cake.
“What, Faramir?” I enquired, noticing a strange look in my younger son’s eyes.
He quickly looked away. “Nothing.”
“I can see that something is troubling you,” I insisted. “Tell me.”
“No, Father, really… It is not of big importance, I assure you. Let us just eat.”
And so we did.
Faramir excused himself and went to bed, while Boromir and I stayed for a while longer.
“How’s our little one? Keeps puzzling people?” Boromir asked once his brother left.
“Awing them, I should say. He is doing remarkably well at everything concerning administration. Well, he seems to be a good strategist too. It was a good idea, back then, to make him attend the Council Meetings, though I am sometimes jealous, you know,” I gave a small laugh.
“Well, you should not be. He is so much like you.”
“Now that is an interesting thought! Is he?”
“But of course!” Boromir exclaimed almost indignantly. “I wish our places were exchanged. He would make a so much better Steward! I am too… unrefined for this,” he hung his head.
“Nonsense,” I said. “You will do just well when your time comes.
Unless,” I smiled at him, “the King returns and relieves you of this onerous duty.”
“I wish!” Boromir laughed. “But… has it ever occurred to you, Father, that you place too much trust in me? I am… just a person, though a Steward’s son.”
I smiled again. “No, you are not ‘just a person’, Boromir. You are the most reliable person in the world, and so far you have never ever disappointed me, nor anyone.”
He sighed. “And that is what makes me feel a little uncomfortable. Everybody expects so much from me… and gets it, and what if some day I fail you all in something far more important?”
“What strange things you are saying, Boromir. You sound just like your brother.”
Boromir laughed. “That is a great compliment, Father! Though Faramir is far more confident than he used to be.”
“No wonder,” I said seriously. “We – I mean the Council - have recently decided to make use of some of his suggestions, and the boy has been walking on the clouds since then. But, Boromir, he was a little strange tonight, was he not?”
Boromir frowned. “Now that you mention it… He gave you such a strange look, just as you were reaching for the cake. You know, as if he regretted something. But then, he has not been sleeping well of late.”
“Not sleeping well? He has never mentioned that.”
“Of course not! You know how he is, Father. He would never complain about anything, for fear he could cause you some inconvenience. Even when he had that nasty cut to his forearm during his sword practice… oh, stupid me. I was not supposed to tell you.”
I got angry. “Would you be supposed to tell me if he fell off the top of the Tower of Ecthelion? For goodness’ sake, Boromir! Tell me what happened, now!”
He dropped his gaze, then started uneasily, “Well, he got it five days ago, and did not go to the healers, so it got inflamed. I had to drag him there almost by force the day before yesterday, and we both got a good share of scolding. I was told later that he could have lost his sword arm. That is why he was a little late for the Council that day.”
“Oh no!” I groaned. “And I told him off in front of others… what an ass I am, Boromir! You too, by the way. You should have told me.”
“So, now it is all my fault, right?” Boromir’s eyes flashed angrily at me. “I am to blame that you do not seem to notice your own son wearing a sling? Do you know how much you hurt him, Father? He is more than certain now that his health is of no concern to you at all! Oh yes, he has persuaded himself that this is how things have to be and does not blame you in the least, but don’t you think it was a little… well, cruel?”
I sat there, dumbstruck. Was it really true? How could I possibly have failed to see that his arm was in a sling? But there had been so much to do and to think about, I was just too preoccupied with things, and then there was my most recent discovery, the palantír, which had taken quite a bit of my mind.
No, no, I cried inside, there could be no justification. Poor boy, how terribly hurt he must feel!
“I must go to him, now,” I said urgently, climbing to my feet. “Why does it have to be ever so complicated with him? I never face anything like this with you!”
Boromir just shrugged.
Coming closer to Faramir’s chamber, I saw that the door was slightly ajar. That surprised me, as he never left it open, claiming he could not sleep otherwise. In an instant, however, my surprise gave way to concern as I heard soft moans coming from inside. I hurried towards the sounds.
Faramir was tossing and twitching on his bed, his face flushed and sweaty, breath coming in and out in ragged gasps, hands batting away an unseen enemy. I could see his eyeballs moving frantically beneath the lids.
I rushed to his side, grasped him by the shoulders and gave him quite a violent shake. His eyelids fluttered open; a moment or two he was staring at me in horror, and then clutched at me so tightly that I gasped.
“Father… oh, Father, you are here… I’m so glad…” came the muffled words against my shoulder. He was all in a tremble.
I held him tight, gently patting his back. “It was just a bad dream, Faramir. Now calm down, child, no one is going to hurt you…” I checked myself, realizing I was talking as if to a five-year-old.
He felt that too and said reproachfully, “I am no child, Father.”
How I wish you still were, I thought suddenly and wondered at that, then remembered my business in his chamber.
I reached for his right hand and slowly rolled up the sleeve of the nightshirt he had on. The arm was bandaged from the wrist up to the elbow, to my great relief, without any traces of blood on it.
“Why did you not tell me?”
He flushed. “Did not want to trouble you with such a petty injury.”
“’A petty injury’! I was told you had nearly lost your arm!” I exclaimed, a little heatedly. “Really, Faramir, you sometimes are frustrating. Do you think me totally heartless?”
I stood up and paced the room, irritated and upset, and full of remorse, too. “And to think that I scolded you for being late that day… I guess I am a disaster as a father, after all. How could I not to have noticed your arm… that is truly unforgivable. You have each and every right to be cross with me.” I turned to look at him and was momentarily stunned to see that he was weeping, silently and helplessly, trying to wipe his tears on the cover. This alarmed me in earnest. Tears were something very unusual for Faramir, as was any other manifestation of his emotions. He possessed an amazing self-control, for one so young, and was much respected among both his young friends and older nobles. When distressed, he would not let anyone witness it; he would withdraw silently to some private corner, usually the garden, and sit there for a while, but I knew that even there he would never let loose a single tear.
I sat on the bedside, quite at a loss what to do. I did not dare to try and embrace him, for I was certain he would pull away. Instead, I said in my softest tones, “What is it, Faramir?”
He took a couple of deep breaths, trying to compose himself, and succeeded; then wiped angrily at his face. “Sorry, Father.”
“There is no need to apologize. Just tell me what is happening here.”
“I… I just feel so… worthless. Every time I do something well, the next thing that happens is me screwing up everything.” He sniffled and wiped fresh tears off his cheeks. “Boromir never does anything like that. He is a much… easier person to deal with.”
I sighed. “That is not because your brother is a perfection. He just does not keep things from his own father. It grieves me much, Faramir, to see how easily you talk to complete strangers and yet you cannot share your troubles with me!”
“You mean Mithrandir,” he whispered, then looked up at me alarmedly. “But… it does not mean he is more important to me than… than you. He simply has more time, and you are so busy most of the time.”
I guessed there was something wrong with my expression, as he added hurriedly, “No, Father, I do not blame you. I understand. I understand everything, and I would not like to be in your way. You need not worry about that.”
“Be in my way… Faramir, but you are MY son, MY child! Really, you must stop thinking I do not care for you.”
“But I do not think that, Father.” He looked at me with his big earnest eyes, and that made me want to scream. All that talk had led to nothing. I would truly prefer a familiar clash with my older son. Here things were seemingly all right, but deep at heart I felt despondent. And guilty, too. If it had not been for my earlier neglect of the boy, we would not be feeling so distant sitting just inches apart.
His hand touched mine hesitantly. “I think you are too tired, Father. Tonight, when you came and sat down there with us… I thought that it was for the first time in a long while that you managed to have a minute of pleasure and rest. If you would like…” he paused, “I could help you with some of the paperwork before I leave for Ithilien.”
I had to swallow a great lump in my throat before I could trust myself to speak. “I am very grateful to you, son, and very proud of you.”
For another long while we sat in silence. Then I asked, “What was that nightmare you were having when I entered?”
He tensed visibly. “Nothing. Just a bad dream.”
I decided against pressing him. “All right, tell me when you feel like it. Now go to sleep, you look exhausted. Do you want me to sit with you?”
“No,” he smiled faintly. “You look tired too, Father. I will be fine.”
I turned to look at him again from the doorway. He looked pale and worn, eyes full of concern. “Good night, Faramir.”
“Good night, Father.”
Once in the hallway, I sighed again. This is turning into a bad habit, I thought, struggling to reach some understanding with my younger son with the latter in bed or near it. Why does he have to be so difficult? Or is it me?
I wondered belatedly at the worry in his eyes when I was leaving the chamber. What could that damned dream have been about? I could have sworn the concern was about me.
“It is Black Breath, my lord. This is beyond my skills to heal,” the healer says, shaking his head sorrowfully. Pippin is still asleep.
I touch my son’s hot and sweaty brow with my lips.
“Please, do not leave me without a word… without the chance for me to say how I love you…”
He is silent.
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.