1. The Board is Set
Minas Tirith, 2990 TA
"My lord," the voice spoke softly in Denethor's ear, "Master Faramir waits in the sitting room."
Denethor nodded in response. "Please ask him to wait, Beleg. I shall be with him shortly."
It was Valanya, the day of each week when he set aside a few hours to spend with his sons. He particularly enjoyed this respite from his official duties, not only because it broke the tedium of his office, but also because it gave him a chance to observe his sons in private, without the interventions of their governess, or their training masters. Or the cook, who seems to think they eat either too little, or too much! Spending time with Boromir was easy enough, for the lad was full of stories, of his friends, of sword practice, of the Tower Guards. Faramir was another matter altogether. He was a serious child, more fond of listening than speaking. But at the same time, even the smallest thing aroused his curiosity. Last week, on their usual walk, the boy had found a frog on the street and insisted that Denethor tell him all he knew of the animal. Denethor sighed, certain there would be more frogs, and probably beetles and grasshoppers in his future.
He paced the short distance from his study to the sitting room. It was a large, well-lit room, but otherwise unadorned and unremarkable. Indeed, on this day, the only thing of particular note in the room was the small boy who stood at the window, peering intently out of it. Denethor cleared his throat softly, to alert the child to his presence.
"Papa! I mean, Father…" Faramir turned away from the window, giving his father a small, but very formal, bow. Denethor inclined his head politely in return, unable to completely suppress his amusement at the gesture. "And how are you, Faramir?"
"I am well, Pa…Father…" Faramir hesitated, but Denethor waited, giving the boy a chance to finish his thought. "Shall we walk on the walls again today, Father, and hear the rest of the story of Castamir and Eldacar?" Faramir's enthusiasm for any tale of Gondor was endearing, and Denethor allowed himself to be amused once more.
Denethor joined Faramir at the window, and noted that the morning's light drizzle had turned into a steady downpour. "We shall have to do that another time, Faramir. It is raining and I don't wish for you to be outside in that." Faramir frowned, clearly disappointed at this. "But Father…"
"No, Faramir," Denethor said, reaching out a hand to ruffle the child's hair and console him. To his shock, Faramir recoiled, and Denethor could not help but be annoyed with the boy. What now? He fixed Faramir with a stare, awaiting an explanation.
Faramir shuffled, his expression confused. "I'm sorry, Papa," Faramir said, forgetting not to use the childish appellation. "Boromir says…he says…well, he says that if I want to grow up, I will have to stop acting like a small child." The words were coming out all in a rush. "It is bad enough that you think I'm too small for a little bit of rain. But that," Faramir pointed at Denethor's still outstretched hand, "that is for a child!"
Denethor pondered this for a moment. Faramir was rather upset, almost tearful, and Denethor cast about for some way to make amends to the boy. I don't need a crying child on my hands. And Boromir is right, Faramir is older now.
"Well, Faramir, in that case, perhaps you would like to do something a bit more grown up today? Would you like to join me in a game of chess?"
Denethor chuckled, as Faramir nodded his head enthusiastically. "Even Boromir cannot play chess yet!"