by Orangeblossom Took

Emyn Arnen, Fourth Age 12

It was a day at the beginning of spring that was grey with rain and recalled the chill of winter. The rain fell in gentle curtains and its gentle patter whispered hush to all the land. Faramir was using the inclement weather as an excuse to catch up on his correspondence but had spent far more time than necessary looking out of the window of his study at the silvery rain falling on the gardens.

He felt out of sorts because Eowyn was visiting her brother in Rohan. Lothiriel, Eomer’s wife and Faramir’s cousin, was about to bring her first child into the word and, since her mother was dead and she had no sisters, Eowyn was the logical choice to provide her with female companionship. He knew this and felt selfish for wishing to deny his cousin the companionship of his wife when she was in need but, even after more than a decade, this time of year brought back bad memories to him. He needed Eowyn to help him beat the shadows back. This was the longest they had been separated since their marriage over a decade ago. He was impatient for her return and today was a hard anniversary for him, the anniversary of the burning.

He was startled away from his contemplation of the rain when he heard a knock on the door. He bade his caller to enter and his ten-year-old boy who was dark-haired and tall for his age entered the room. It was his son Elboron.

Faramir smiled at the boy and asked, “I am glad to see you always, Son, but what are you doing away from your tutor?”

Elboron’s gaze went to his feet and he replied, “I am sorry, Father. I was bored. So was Master Calbach must have been bored too. He fell asleep at his desk when I was doing my Numerancy problems so I snuck away. I would rather go riding with mother or get an archery lesson from you. I do not mind reading or history but numbers give me a headache.

Faramir laughed and said, “Well, I felt the same as you, Son, but it is something you need to learn. I only had one tutor who made numbers interesting but he was a very special tutor indeed. You could practice composition by writing to your mother. I am about to send a messenger to Rohan with some correspondence.”

The child brightened and he said, “I would like that. When is mother coming home?”

Faramir sighed and said, “She will be back after your cousin is born and not before. Your aunt and uncle have been waiting a long time for this and in need of your mother’s support. I can not leave Ithilien for that long but we will go to Rohan after the baby is born to make our welcome and escort your mother back.”

Elboron practically danced with excitement at this possibility and, in a breathless voice, said, “Oh, I can not wait!”

Faramir laughed again and ruffled his son’s hair. He found another chair to pull up to the corner of his large desk so both he and Elboron could write their letters. After finishing his letter, Elboron studied the rain and, restless with that, looked at his father. Faramir was bent over a document and a lock of hair fell forward to reveal the scar on his forehead. He had seen the scars on his father’s body when they went swimming in the summertime. The one on his forehead was fainter and older than the others and obviously from a lesser wound. The boy could not have said why it piqued his curiosity or why it made think of a subject his father always avoided. After a moment, he gave up fighting his desire to know.

“Father,” he asked, “how did you get that scar on your forehead?”

Faramir frowned. The child could not have struck a rawer nerve. He felt a brief flare of anger at his son for his impertinent question but squelched it. It wasn’t Elboron’s fault. He knew children were naturally curious and asked questions.

In a calm, measured voice he said, “It happened a long time ago, Elboron.”

Elboron decided to risk a more dangerous question, “How come you never talk about my grandfather? Mother talks about her parents.”

Faramir did not want to discuss this and was afraid he would lose the fight with his temper. With Eowyn gone and the heavy day, he was on edge.

“Elboron,” he said in a voice that was very firm but betrayed no anger, “go find Master Calbach. You should not neglect your studies.”

Elboron knew that he should stop pushing the subject and did as his father bade without protest. When his son left the room, Faramir sighed and held his head in his hands. He did not want to tell his son or anyone else about Denethor. The memories were too painful. The boy’s questions had been like probing at a sore tooth, painful but irresistible. Was Elboron too young to hear the terrible story about the fire or about his relationship with Denethor? Did he deserve to know?

Later than night the rains had gone and the full moon shone in a scrubbed clean-sky. Faramir, having made a decision, went to Elboron’s room to tuck the child in for the night. He sat on his son’s bed and brushed the soft hair back from the child’s cheek.

He looked at the boy with a smile that held more pain than mirth and said, “Dear child, I have decided to answer your questions. My father gave me this scar when I was five. We fought over my mother’s cloak and he knocked me down. Our relationship was never good and, when he died, he tried to take me with him. Please, do not press me for details; they would only give you nightmares.”

Elboron looked at his father with horrified eyes. From his mother’s hints and his own intuition, he expected something bad but had never realized just how bad it was. Despite being a brave boy of ten, a few tears trickled down his face.

He embraced his father and said, “I am sorry, Father. I should not have asked you. How horrible!”

Faramir patted the top of his son’s head and said, “Do not cry, child. I had Gandalf, Imrahil, Ivriniel, and Boromir. When I was your age I was happy and fostering in Dol-Amroth, away from Denethor.”

Elboron sniffed and said, “Still, I am sorry that happened and glad I never knew him!”

“Oh,” Faramir whispered, “do not say that, child. He lived during hard times and was afflicted by the dark. He loved your uncle and would have loved you.”

At the mention of Boromir’s name, Elboron perked up and asked, “Will you tell me a story about Uncle Boromir?”

Faramir smiled and replied, “Yes, I can think of one or two amusing ones. Let us put tragedy away for the night. Did I ever tell you how many tutors your uncle went through…”

As he went to sleep that night, Faramir thought that the worse scars were perhaps the ones you could not see. He had been afraid that he would be as cruel to Elboron as his own father had been to him, yet that had proved not to be the case. He found himself wishing for another child, maybe a girl this time. With this happy thought, he drifted off to sleep bathed in the serene moonlight.