1. Echoes Inhabit the Garden
Sometimes, when it is just the two of them, Faramir asks Boromir to tell him about their "other mother" as he calls her, the vivacious woman he only has vague memories of.
This Boromir does, gladly. He does it for them both; to preserve her lively presence in his own recollections and to reinstate it in Faramir's.
He has stopped caring if he in his stories sometimes walks paths he never saw, or opens gates that never existed.
They both know that is of no consequence. The truth of the memories he spins emerges and settles in the telling, sustaining and uniting the two of them, belonging to them only.
Finduilas had an apple-orchard down at the first circle. Denethor makes sure it is still cared for, but he never enters it himself anymore. Boromir sometimes wonders whether he keeps it tended for them, as Faramir and he often come here.
It has become one of main depositories of memories - a porous world, both malleable and stable.
Faramir was never brought here much, and his own visits ceased in the two years before their mother died. When Faramir was six he opened the gate once again and took his brother with him - to tell him stories.
Boromir hears his own younger voice in the apple trees. He keeps it tied there, a fixed point in a turning world. He has other markers. The flow of her skirts, the sonority of her laugh. It was strong he has decided, and he tells Faramir that she would chase after him amongst the trees and along the path to the pond at the bottom of the orchard while laughing that laugh.
There are some memories he keeps half submerged. Like the time when she wasn't there, or far behind him, and he fell into the pond one autumn, skidding on the wet leaves. The pond wasn't deep, but he remembers the icy seepage through his clothes and onto his skin. And he remembers the anger; red-hot and smarting behind his clattering teeth.The rest of that memory he keeps locked away.
He is known to have a temper - and strong fists.
During the first year after Finduilas death that anger always burned with a low flame that sometimes flared dangerously. He lived in constant fear of loosing Faramir. This he told no-one, least of all Faramir, but he took upon himself the role of his brother's keeper and protector until kingdom come, and he took it seriously.
Faramir was so small and odd, which made him love him all the more.
During that same first year Faramir had a propensity for long silent soliloquies, his lips forming inaudible words directed towards empty corners of a room. Inevitably he was caught out, and had to suffer uncertain sniggers from other youngsters and concerned glances from the adults. Boromir found a target for his anger then, a burning hatred for those who dared snigger. He would make his fists collide firmly and forcefully with their despised faces at any opportunity he got. After a string of nosebleeds and broken teeth, Denethor took him aside.
Sitting in his big room he had spoken to him in a tired voice about his responsibility to set an example as the Steward's son, and...
His voice fizzled out and instead he looked at his son with a mixture of sadness and guilt. Silence hovered between them. "You look so much like her," he said finally, not meeting Boromir's eyes, his voice toneless and distant, "and I am so sorry..."
By the passing of the year and some time into the next Boromir had found less violent ways to employ his fists, and Faramir had ceased his silent soliloquies. Grief follows its trajectory to the end.
Boromir never tells stories about their mother looking down on them, or being with them always. That is too sentimental for him, and too unpredictable. She belongs in a past that is also eternally present. Contained in his first world, in that sliver of his childhood he keeps behind the gate to the apple-orchard.
Boromir picked his way carefully through the pile of wind-fallen apples to find those that can be instantly eaten. He was always hungry.
He looked at his big hands rummaging amongst the apples – they looked out of place, as if they had taken on a life of their own.
A strange mood was taking hold. It was a while since they have been here, and a memory hitherto ignored was pushing at the edge of his senses.
It was a cold, clear autumn evening and they had lit a fire by the pond. The wet wood exuded a dense low-lying carpet of smoke that moved slowly in between the trees, and showed only little flame.
Faramir sat with his knees folded into the crook of his arm, consuming an apple and gazed dreamily into the leaf-filled water. He looked happy, something that never failed to induce a feeling of profound satisfaction in Boromir. He was as deeply committed to his role as Faramir's protector as ever, but no longer had that constant fear of losing him. Unconventional the boy remains, but he is not fragile.
They share same symmetry, a symmetry Boromir needs, even if the age difference doesn't make this apparent to anyone but the initiated. They find it comforting to express it in small personal ways: trousers with torn knees, Boromir's left to Faramir's right, tears in a sleeve, Faramir's left to Boromir's right.
Boromir looked down at his hand...a red scar across the palm, his left to Faramir's right....
Boromir winced. He had been fifteen, drunk and emotional and had purposefully cut into his brother's palm and his own with a knife, as part of a blood-oath ritual of his own devising. The cuts went deeper than intended and bled profusely. Faramir had looked on in stunned, horrified fascination and let it happen.
Faramir looked up and caught his gaze in that sudden way he sometimes does. They are finely tuned to each-other's moods. Boromir smiled and stretched his left hand towards him, slowly, palm open. Faramir responded and put his right palm with its puckered scar against the almost identical scar in Boromir's.
Their hands intersecting... Faramir's pale hand inside the outline of his very much larger one...
Boromir felt like a giant, an intruder in his own story.
Outside the fragile private world he shared with Faramir, he carried his body with ease, most times. He was agile and supple, getting less wild and unpredictable - a natural leader in fact, a warrior in the making, settling into his future role. But he needed to be able to inhabit both worlds - this world, this orchard, contained the innermost part of him.
Now, here, he just felt odd, like he was trapped and moving away at speed at the same time.
The five years between them contained his first world, the source of the tales he has spun.
The visible expression of this time-span had never been starker - between his tall sixteen year old frame, on the cusp of manhood, and Faramir's willowy eleven year old outline.
Boromir pulled his hand abruptly to him.
Distressed, he turned his back to his brother and started throwing windfallen apples hard against the tree-trunks. All the time fighting the melancholy that was slowly strangling him.
It was no use. The memory broke through his sense barrier and rushed in.
He is eight years old; cold, wet and furious.
Finduilas comes running, heaving for breath, as he staggers out of the pond. She clutches his wet clothes between her already cold hands and bursts into tears. Even then her reaction briefly confuses him.
Now, as the memory burrowed in, he realized that had this happened earlier in his life she would have comforted him but acted quickly and efficiently to get him somewhere where they could remove his soggy garments. As it was she stood on the same spot and cried, crushing him to her, wetting her dress. She held him so hard that he in the end started struggling to free himself. She moved and acted then, and he didn't think anything more of it, but he understood, now, that she had cried as much for herself as for him. She could no longer keep up with him, a child, her strength failing.
It was the beginning of her decline.
Boromir's eyes smarted. He fought against the tears briefly, but then he gave up and let them fall, as they had to sooner or later. Grief usually insists on running its course.
He felt Faramir's hands dig into his shoulders and was surprised by the force of the grip.
Faramir sat down on his hunches in front of him and took his face between his hands – his brother's eyes were like grey pools under the inky fringe. At first they contained only distress and fear, but then their expression changed, became probing and filled with a wish to comfort and protect. It was a strangely grown-up look, like the man Faramir was still to become was looking back at him.
The obvious fact that Faramir would grow up and catch up with him took on a new meaning. It wasn't just him travelling down the river of time leaving Faramir behind, but also Faramir moving towards him. Seen in another way Faramir was already waiting, a little further down the river. One day they would meet face to face - as equals in everything.
Boromir leant forward and kissed his brother. Faramir smelled of wood-smoke and burnt leaves.
They sat silently for a long time, breathing in smoke and eating apples. Boromir dared listen to the old voices and include with them the final sadness of the woman who had loved him, and had cried when she knew she wouldn't be there for him.
"I guess we'd better get back," Boromir said in a low voice after it had gone completely dark, not really wanting to break the mood. Faramir nodded.
Boromir lit the lantern he had brought with an ember from the fire, quenched the flames, and they moved slowly together in amongst the trees towards the gate. Boromir put his arm firmly around the Faramir's thin shoulders, and pulled him close.
The lantern-light flickered dimly across the tree trunks as they passed, making the orchard look ghostly and transient.
Maybe there were other ways to return, Boromir thought. Maybe he could come back as an old man through some hidden gate in his memory, wherever he was in the world.
And then he would stay.
They shut the gate and walked slowly towards the summit of the City. Behind them the thin curvature of a new moon rocked gently against the top of the trees.
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.