Against Hope

by Orangeblossom Took

II  III  IV

Minas Tirith, The Houses of Healing

Faramir sat up in his bed in the Houses of Healing. The effort it took to raise himself to a sitting position, swing his legs around, and place his feet on the ground made him feel dizzy. It wasn’t physical pain that made him squeeze his eye shut and sink back down on the bed. The memories of horrors recently endured and fear that those who had survived the Battle of Pelennor Fields would soon lose their lived before the Black Gate weighed on him.

He has lost so much. He greatly missed Boromir and wished his brother was with him. He was fond of his cousins but had seldom set eyes on Elphir and the others since he returned from his fostering in Dol Amroth twenty years ago. Even they might be lost to him in the next battle and there would be no more blood kin left to him.

Then there was the guilt. He had led men to what he knew was certain death. Gandalf had implored him not to go but Faramir had been so desperate to win his father’s approval, even by dying, that he had ignored his old tutor. Had he really had a choice and could he have made his father see reason? In his heart, he knew the answers to these questions was no but he had been the Captain and the burden of guilt still fell on him.

Faramir did not want to dwell on his father but the flashes of feverish memories were too piercing to ignore. The recollection of the screams and the smell of burning flesh were brief and veiled by fever but still difficult to endure. Faramir had seen death in battle many times but he had never inured himself to it. Burning was one of the worst ways to die and Denethor, however estranged, was still his father. After confirming that he was alone in the private room the healers had moved him to, Faramir allow himself to cry.

“I wish,” he thought to himself, “that Gandalf and Pippin had left me to burn with him. I deserved no better.”

After that thought crossed his mind he knew he was wrong to even think such a thing and struggled to stay out of the trap of despair his father had fallen into. He tried to think instead of pleasant memories of raising a glass with Boromir or lessons with Gandalf. He should see his survival as the gift it was and not wish it away.

By the time he heard a knock on his door, he was again composed. He was pleased to see that Gandalf and Pippin were his visitors.

Though his acquaintance with the Halfling had been brief, he was already familiar with Pippin’s garrulous nature and not surprised when he spoke first.

Pippin said, “We are going to the Black Gate, my lord, and wanted to see how you were before we left.”

Faramir smiled weakly at Pippin and said, “As well as can be expected, Master Peregrin.”

Gandalf had concern in his eyes when he inspected his former pupil and said, “Look at me, Faramir.”

When Faramir avoided the wizard’s gaze, Gandalf put his hand underneath the Steward’s chin and gently lifted his face as he had done when Faramir was a child.

In a soft yet commanding voice, Gandalf said, “We must make haste, Faramir, so I can not say all I wish to. Know that there are still those who care for you and that you have the strength to endure this.”

Faramir noticed Pippin had an expression on his face like he was struggling to keep from saying something, then the hobbit burst out, “We will return my lord.” Pippin paused before he continued, “The Lady Eowyn is sad too.”

Gandalf’s mouth quirked into a smile and he said, “That is enough, Pippin. That is something to think on, Faramir. I think you should offer her. Maybe that would help you as well.”

Faramir thought of the solemn, blond girl he had seen lying on a cot in the main room of the Houses of Healing and their brief encounter when her family visited Minas Tirith when she was a child.

In a thoughtful tone, Faramir replied, “I believe that is good advice. Thank you, Master Peregrin and Mithrandir.”

Pippin bowed and Gandalf placed his had on Faramir’s head in benediction before they left the room.

“Now,” Faramir thought, “I have a purpose. If I can’t go to the Black Gate maybe I can at least help this lady.”

II.

2: discovered in dreams

Minas Tirith

Faramir returned to his room feeling somewhat frustrated. The White Lady had sealed her grief in and the world, including him, out. Despite his hopes, he had been unable to reach her this day. It was hard to convince her that there was hope when the daytime sky was so impenetrably dark. He was having a difficult time persuading even himself that there would be light again.

“Gandalf,” he thought, “How am I supposed to help her when I can barely help myself?”

He needed companionship too and talking to Eowyn was like having a conversation with an icicle. It was frustrating but he would persist because he could sense that there was more than cold aloofness to her. It pained him to know the bright, bold four-year-old he shepherded around Minas Tirith so many years ago had encountered so much sadness in her life.

Like him, she had lost nearly everything. Her parents and the uncle who raised her were gone. So was her cousin. Unlike him, she still had a brother but he had just left with the Armies of the West for the Black Gate and might not return. He wondered if she would ever smile again and if he would ever see the Sun shining on her hair.

Faramir decided that he would go to Boromir’s room and sit there alone for awhile. After starting a small fire in the fireplace, He sat down in a comfortable chair in a corner of his brother’s room and wrapped his cloak about him. Faramir stared at the fire for a long time before fatigue from physical pain and the emotions of the day made his eyes droop and he drifted off to sleep.

He was walking in a beautiful forest next to a sparkling stream. Jeweled birds flew in a turquoise sky. Better than this, he saw a tall, dark-haired man walking towards him. It was Boromir.

He called his brother’s name and ran toward him. “Boromir! This must be a dream.”

Boromir smiled, nodded and replied, “You were always fond of dreams, little brother.”

The brother’s embraced then Boromir said, “Don’t give up hope, Fari. I think the battle at the Black Gate and your battle for the heart of the White Lady aren’t as lost as they may seem.”

The diminutive from his childhood was said with so much love Faramir didn’t even bristle at it as he had done when Boromir addressed him that way in life. With a catch in his voice, he replied, “I hope you are right, brother.”

Boromir grinned and said, “Of course I am.” His tone became more serious and he said, “Fari, I think you should look in the drawer of my desk…”

Faramir woke up shivering with cold but feeling comforted. The fire had died down and the room was frigid.

He walked over to Boromir’s desk and opened the drawer. There was a plain, wooden box in the drawer. Faramir opened it and saw that it contained two bundles of letters tied with string. The first bundle was letters Faramir had written to his brother. Faramir knew Boromir was not inclined to sentimentality or keeping nonessential items so the fact he kept these letters was a testimony to how much his brother had cared for him.

The second bundle was written in an unfamiliar, feminine hand but, before Faramir could look at them more carefully, his attention was drawn by something else. There was a ring at the bottom of the box. A woman’s ring.

III.

Against Hope 3: Lost and Found

Faramir looked at the ring he found under the letters in Boromir’s box. It was a band of yellow gold set with small garnets which were arranged in the shape of a flower. He noticed that there was engraving on the inside of the ring. There was an outline of the White Tree and the name Meallan etched in the gold.

Faramir began to rifle through the letters that had obviously been written by this woman. They were missives that spoke of her love for his brother. From her letters Faramir could see she had a strong, proud personality like Boromir’s but she clearly loved Boromir deeply. The final letter was quite angry. Instead of begging with plaintive words for her love to stay as many women might have done, she merely wrote, “I will wait for you, however long you may tarry.”

Faramir wondered why his brother had not spoken of this lady. She had been an important part of his life during Boromir’s last months in Gondor. He felt like he was betraying a confidence by reading these letters but had a strong desire to know who this lady was and where she was. An unspoken hope formed itself in his mind but he brushed it away.

“Boromir,” he murmured ruefully to himself, “Always told me I was too curious for my own good. Of course, he also told me to look in this drawer, even if it was in a dream.”

There was a knock at the door and a frantic voice called, “My Lord Faramir! We have been looking for you. Beregond and Master Finlay were so worried.”

It was Catriona, assistant to Healer Finaly.

He sighed and said, “I am fine, Catriona and sorry to have caused anyone concern. I shouldn’t have snuck away. I need to speak with Beregond. Tell him to meet me in the throne room.”

She nodded and replied, “Yes, my lord.”

A short while later Faramir was in the throne room with Beregond trying to find answers to his questions about Meallan. She was the daughter of one of Denethor’s functionaries who Faramir barely knew because he had been with the Rangers so much of the time. Beregond remembered the lady but did not know where she might be. Faramir sent the man to ask questions of those organizing the care of women, children, and other non-combatants but he came back after a moderately long time without finding anything.

Faramir’s thoughts drifted again to Eowyn while he walked back to the Houses of Healing. It was cold and, if she was going to stand on the wall waiting for Eomer and the others to return, she should have a cloak. Should he bring her his mother’s cloak? Could he bear it if she rejected that gift?

Just then, Beregond came running towards him.

“My lord,” Beregond exclaimed, “I have news.”

Faramir noticed that the man didn’t seem particularly happy about whatever he had uncovered. He didn’t know Meallan and hadn’t even known about her until today but, judging by the fact he kept her letters and ring, she had been dear to his brother and he was hoping to talk with her about Boromir.

Faramir nodded and said, “Please continue, Beregond.”

Beregond cast his eyes down and said, “She was found, my lord.”

Faramir was almost afraid to ask the question but, since the guard did not continue, he was forced to. He asked, “How and where was she found.”

Beregond’s voice was soft as he replied, “She was found among the dead soldiers, my lord. She donned armor and joined the battle.”

IV.

 4: All’s Well

At the behest of his healers, Faramir went to bed early that evening. The news about Meallan saddened but did not surprise him. A woman who could capture Boromir’s affections for any extended period of time would have to be a woman of spirit. Also, he knew the fair Eowyn could not be the only female to disguise herself and go to battle. He would have loved to speak with her about his brother but, maybe, if they did care deeply for each other, they were somehow together. With this thought and a mild amusement that rose above the sadness because of the similarity between his love and the lady who was probably his brother’s, Faramir sunk into a fitful sleep.

He dreamed he was back in the woods where he saw Boromir in his earlier dream. However, there was someone else there this time. His brother was in the company of a tall, dark-haired woman with an imposing bearing. She remained at the edge of the trees while Boromir approached him.

Faramir frowned at his brother and said, “You should have told me about her, Boromir. What kept you from confiding in me?”

Boromir shook his head ruefully and said, “It had to do with my own pride, little brother, but we are together and our story not important now. Our days are done. You should be concerned for yourself. You always were too curious and prone to snooping.”

Faramir smiled and replied, “Well, if people would tell me their secrets, I would not have to go digging for them.”

He was rewarded by a laugh from Boromir and the older Son of Gondor said, “That is true. Now, little brother, I think Aragon and Frodo will fulfill their vows as I could not fulfill mine. Also, I have an idea for your White Lady. You went through such pains to wrest mother’s cloak from father after she died that it would be a shame if you did not use it. Bring it to Eowyn.”

This surprised Faramir. Boromir seemed to regard anything of their mother’s as a holy relic and, in life, would not have heard of letting someone not of their blood use her cloak. Of course, he was the only one of their blood left.

Faramir’s voice choked and he said, “I will, brother. I will take that advice. I don’t care if you are the imagining of a fevered brain. I do not want you to leave.”

Boromir smiled sadly and said, “I must leave, little brother, and you should have more faith in your dreams than that.”

He embraced Faramir before returning to Meallan. The couple smiled, waved farewell to him, and disappeared into the forest.

Faramir woke up early the following morning. Today the others would be at the Black Gate and dark clouds blotted the Sun from the sky but Faramir felt as though some measure of hope had been restored.

He had not been up long when Beregond came to attend him and said, “My Lord Faramir, the Lady Eowyn is keeping watch from the wall.”

Faramir nodded and said, “Thank you, Beregond. Could you please bring me my mother’s cloak? It is in the chest in my old room.”

Those who glanced up at the wall later would always remember what they saw. Their beloved young Captain approached the Lady Eowyn. At first, she turned her eyes away from him as he placed the beautiful blue cloak set with silver stars around her shoulders. Those who observed from below saw he was in earnest conversation with her and the sun was revealed in her face an instant before it appeared in the sky and they kissed.

**********Epilogue************

It was with a joyous heart that Faramir greeted Gandalf upon his return from the battle. The King had returned. Pippin, who saved him from the flames, would live. Frodo and Sam were alive. Eowyn was his.

Faramir ran to the wizard as he had done when he was a child and had found something of usual interest to share or ask questions about. He embraced Gandalf and, if it had not been for his wounds, he would have abandoned all of his Stewardly gravity to swig his old mentor around in the bright sunshine.

Gandalf laughed and said, “I am pleased to see you are well, Faramir, and even more pleased to see that you were in the company of the Lady Eowyn.”

Faramir blushed and said, “We will be very happy, I think.”