The Dragon and the Fox
Chapter 45: The Homecoming
The last of his strength failed and Faramir slid out of the saddle
and fell onto the hard dry ground at his horse’s side. His foot twisted
in the stirrup and he was dragged, but after starting forward with her
ears laid back his bay mare Rua, weary and lamed by an arrow in her
shoulder, hobbled to a halt. On the withered grass a thin trail of
bright blood gleamed in the brassy sunlight and Faramir, unable to haul
himself to his feet, drifted off into unconsciousness….
‘Are you all right, Far?’ It was Boromir. He had rushed over to his
brother’s side when he was thrown from his horse and now bent over
Faramir, his face anxious and apprehensive.
‘I’m all right’ whispered Faramir through gritted teeth, but he knew he
had broken a rib, he had felt it crack as he landed awkwardly on the
sandy arena. Boromir, clad in a black tunic of lightly padded wool
embroidered in silver with the tree and stars, had been uneasily
watching his younger brother putting a barely-broken, raw-boned
stallion through its paces in the cavalry enclosure of the Citadel.
Suddenly, in a blur of dapple-grey flanks and a wildly rolling eye, the
horse had reared and thrown Faramir.
The Captain of Horse, Marcach, would have intervened but as the young
man had been schooling this difficult mount his father, the Steward,
had approached the enclosure. Clad as always in black mail and wearing
at his side a great broadsword in its long black and silver scabbbard
Denethor had watched with a critical eye as his younger son failed to
master the powerful charger. Seeing his brother in difficulties,
Boromir had ducked under the rail to go to his aid, but Denethor had
‘Do not interfere, Boromir. It is time your brother learned that others
will not always save him from the folly of his own decisions. He has
overmatched himself with that horse, now he must pay the price….’
So as Boromir watched helplessly, the great grey stallion threw Faramir
once then when he had remounted it threw him again. When Faramir
tumbled into the sand a third time Boromir could stand it no longer and
ignoring his father’s angry command he ran to his brother and bent over
‘Why is the Steward always so stern towards his youngest son?’ asked Marcach of one of his guards in an undertone.
‘Don’t get up, Faramir!’ hissed Boromir. ‘You’re hurt, lie still….’
Faramir looked across and saw his father Denethor watching him with
contempt. Then the Steward turned away, and Faramir lay back and closed
his eyes with a groan.
‘I can never please him, Boromir….’.
Since Faramir had led his men out of the gates of Minas Tirith his page
Fionn had stood on the battlements of the First Circle, straining to
look out over the plain, now completely overcast by the black cloud
spreading from Mordor. Tears formed in his eyes from gazing hard, but
all he saw were distant columns of dark marching legions as the armies
of the East filed across the hastily repaired bridges of Osgiliath and
deployed on the Pelennor in preparation for the attack on Minas Tirith….
Behind him the city was noisy with hurrying soldiers and citizens
standing in groups talking anxiously in the streets, but Fionn cared
only for Faramir. Ignored by the guards, hardly noticing the hour slide
past, the little boy at last saw, wavering at the edge of his vision, a
tiny speck moving erratically towards the city. He shaded his eyes
against the glare, aware now of the low, reverberating thump, thump,
thump of drums coming from the plain beyond. He shut out the sound, for
now he knew there was no doubt, the dark speck was Faramir, riding
slowly back to the city…
‘Open the Gate!’ he shouted, and the sentry looked over the wall and seeing the distant horseman as well he took up the cry.
‘Open the Gate…..’
Fionn could hardly squeeze through the throng gathered around his
master. He used his elbows and squirmed past guards and fearful
townspeople, for word flew through the city; Faramir was returned,
mortally wounded. And his command was lost, every man slain; every
house in the city was bereaved…
Grief descended on Minas Tirith, and it seemed to Fionn as if the
people were rendered powerless by the news. Faramir’s wounded horse,
Rua, was led in limping through the gates, and through the archway
Fionn saw, spread out across the horizon, a great black swarm, the host
of Mordor, with tall siege towers punctuating the battle line. The
guards cried out in warning and Faramir, tangled in the stirrup and
dragged along, was pulled inside the great gates and hastily laid on a
Fionn could not reach his master, but through the press of soldiers and
townspeople he saw Faramir had been struck by two arrows, one in the
chest and one in the side and he was unsconcious. His armour was scored
and draggled with the red dust of the plain and a trickle of blood ran
from the side of his mouth. He was deathly pale. Fionn thought of
Boromir, and what the halfling Pippin had told Denethor the Steward of
his eldest son’s death;
‘Boromir fell pierced by many arrows….’
Then the guards bore Faramir away up to the citadel and his father leaving Fionn to follow as best he could…
The uneven pace of the wounded horse tugged painfully at the arrow and
ground the tip deeper into Faramir’s side. When at last he came to a
halt he was aware only of the easing of the pain. He could faintly hear
men call his name, and gentle hands raised him and laid him on a
litter. Someone pressed a moistened cloth to his face and for a moment
his eyes flickered open and he realised he was back in Minas Tirith.
'He is slain!' wailed a woman. 'Faramir is slain, our hope is gone....!'
'I wonder...' thought Faramir dreamily 'will my father be pleased now?'
Wavering between waking and darkness Faramir felt every step as the
guards hurried up the winding streets to the Citadel, the litter
cruelly jolting his wounds. At last he heard the sound of running water
and thought he must be beside the fountain in the Court of the King. A
hand was laid on his forehead…..
He was burning up, sick of a fever. Below his window the city was
covered with snow but inside the chamber a fire burned brightly.
Finduilas laid a long, cool white hand on his forehead and said in a
‘Rest now, Faramir my son. Sleep….’
Faramir longed to reach out for his mother, but then another voice came to his ears; that of his father.
‘Without a blessing, or even a farewell did I send you out, Faramir my
son, and now you are dying. Well am I punished, spending both my sons
in vain for the defence of Gondor. Faramir! How soon his spirit
Then Faramir felt a hand on his face. Not his mother’s long cool
fingers, but a small hand, light and trembling, like the hand of a
‘He’s still alive!’ thought Pippin, gently passing his hand over
Faramir’s brow, wet with icy sweat. He glanced at Denethor, but the
Steward seemed lost in dark thoughts and scarcely heeded his stricken
‘He needs medicine, not long words!’ said Pippin to himself
desperately. Into his mind came a vision, clear as the day it happened,
of Boromir fighting off the Uruk-hai attacking him and Merry in the
sunlit glade at Parth Galen. Into his heart came a pang of grief for
Boromir, lordly in manner but also kind towards him and his cousin. He
formed a grim resolve;
‘Faramir will not die! I will not let it happen….’
The leeches removed Faramir’s armour, gingerly unbuckling the straps
and easing off the bent and blood-stained cuirass. Then they removed
the black tip of the orc arrow, gripping it and tugging it out with
their long steel instruments as Faramir shifted and moaned under their
hands. Then they peered at the tiny triangle of metal in the dim light
of the Tower. It was a small sharp arrowhead, a bodkin selected to
pierce armour; the orcs were skilled archers. One of the leeches
examined the bloody tip, sniffed it and said to the Steward standing by;
‘There does not seem to be any poison on the arrowhead, my lord. Your son might yet heal….’
‘He will never heal.’ replied Denethor in a voice like a death knell. ‘My house is doomed and my line is ended. Leave us….’
The leeches gathered up their instruments, cupping glasses and lancing
blades and poultices and fled, so stern was the look in Denethor’s
eyes. When they were gone Denethor walked over and stood looking down
at his son, almost unaware of the presence of Pippin the hobbit.
‘Faramir my last-born, always the one I dealt harshly with. In your
kindness I saw the weakness of your mother Finduilas. Harshly I dealt
with you, to try to bring her back to me. Harshly I dealt with you, for
it was you I loved the most….’
Faramir did not hear him. Deep in unsconsciousness, fevered and
breathing with difficulty, he lay on the litter pale as one already
dead. Wandering in a dream he saw again Gandalf seeking to speak to him
as he rode from the city. The wizard’s words rang in his head ….
‘Your father loves you, Faramir. He will remember it before the end…..’
‘It is too late for us…’ murmured Faramir. ‘Let me go to my brother. Let me go…’
‘Come!’ called Denethor to his attendants. ‘Bear my son from this
place, to Rath Dínen and the street of tombs. Sundered from me
in life by my own doing, we will be together in death…’