Ten Thousand Years will not Suffice

by Agape4Rivendell

II  III  IV  V  VI  VII  VIII  IX  X 

21. 
Third Age - 2997 

I.

“The Haradrim have a new weapon,” Boromir stated flatly.

“Not surprised,” Faramir answered him, a grin on his face. “When do they not device hideous machines to worry Gondor!” He reached up further and grunted as he tried to reach the next handhold. He found he could not use the same one’s Boromir had used. His brother had indeed grown in the two years he had been away with his regiment. Now that he was back for an extended stay, Faramir just wanted to be around him and not speak of fighting, weapons, or Haradrim.

“This is different,” Boromir countered, a little angry at his brother’s flippancy.

Faramir stopped climbing, strengthened his grip on the rock he was holding, and turned full face to Boromir. “I did not mean disrespect.” His cheeks flamed red.

“I know,” Boromir whispered. He paused in his upward climb. “I sometimes grow weary of their plots. I… I don’t know how Father does it. He grows more sour every day. I was surprised at the look of him, when first I saw him last night.”

“He has changed. Though not sour,” Faramir stated, “but tired. Almost… weakened.”

“Aye. That is a better description. Would that he shared with me the thoughts that disturb him enough to cause lack of sleep. His eyes are restless.”

Boromir pulled himself over the last boulder that stood in his way, lent a hand to Faramir, and helped him climb over and onto the gentle sward high above the city. They both lay on the grass, catching their breath.

“Would that he would share anything with me,” Faramir wished.

“You cannot be serious? He dotes on you.”

“He dotes on you, brother. And rightly so. You are fast becoming the talk of the Citadel. All speak of your deeds on the…” There they were again, speaking of war.

“You spend too much time with the wizard,” Boromir said irritably. “Do you need to be hit over the head! How many times has he asked you not to spend time with him?”

“I frequent the library. Mithrandir frequents the library. We sometimes discuss things, but I am there to read and he is there to do research. We do not spend that much time together.”

“Mayhap if you told Father that, it would ease his mind.” Boromir rolled over onto his stomach. “He loves you, Faramir.”

“I know it, Boromir, and I would do nothing to hurt him. Would you have me run from the library every time the wizard entered it?”

“You speak foolishly!”

“I am sorry. My tongue seems to be wayward today.” Faramir stared at the clouds scudding across the sky, wishing there was some way to repair the rift that seemed to be growing between his father and himself. If he were not careful, he was even more afraid, it would cause a rift between his brother and himself. “Might you have a suggestion?”

“Go to him now. Tell him you are sorry. Tell him you do not meet with the wizard intentionally. Tell him you honour his council, Father’s council.”

“I do honour his council.”

“He needs to hear it,” Boromir said shortly.

“When we return, I will go to him… if he is not too busy to see me.”

“I will go with you, Faramir. He will see us. I will stand by you.”

Faramir sighed. If Boromir went with him, there was no doubt that his father would see them. If he went alone, he was sure he would be told Denethor was too busy – come back later. Or at suppertime. And then suppertime would come and talk would be of the weal of Gondor and Faramir would not get a word in.

Boromir turned to him, a smile upon his face. “I can almost hear your mind thinking, your sigh is so heavy. I have never thought Father did not have time for us. Do you not, for your own sake, Faramir. I believe he would sunder Mt. Orodruin itself, if it stood between thee and he.”

Faramir shivered. “I know it well. I would not have him go anywhere near that accursed mountain.”

“If you are busy shivering, you might shiver over this… The Haradrim have bred some new kind of beast. They call them mûmakil. They are the size of a house with long tusks and they are bred vicious.”

Faramir paled. “How many?”

“I have not heard. Only one has been sighted so far. By the Rangers in Southern Ithilien.”

“Does Father know?”

Boromir laughed harshly. “What does Father not know!”

“He does not know that you were much missed, brother,” Faramir said quietly.

“He does not know that you were much missed, brother,” Boromir countered, smiling broadly. “But we will tell him!” And his laughter turned genuine. He grabbed Faramir’s neck and they tumbled around, wrestling against each other till they both had to stop for breath.

The sun was setting behind them as the two brothers started their climb back down the mountain. “Careful, little brother,” Boromir called up to him, “dusk is making it difficult to see the handholds.” A gasp above caused him to stop and look up. Faramir dangled by three fingers. “Hold on,” he whispered, trying to keep his voice steady, “I will be there in a moment.” He scrambled up as fast as he could, but he wasn’t fast enough. Faramir cried out as his fingers finally slipped. He went crashing past Boromir, too fast and too far away for Boromir to even attempt to catch him. Boromir scrambled to follow, trying not to watch as Faramir hit rock outcroppings and continued his headlong plunge towards the city. Boromir climbed down as fast as he could. Faramir would be upon the steel spikes that guarded the western wall of Minas Tirith too soon. He must stop his brother’s fall now, but as fast as he scrambled down the cliff, the faster Faramir seemed to tumble away from him.

Faramir’s hands kept reaching out, trying to grab onto anything that would stop his fall or slow him down. Handfuls of scrub and small bushes did naught to help. At last, as panic began to overtake him, he felt a sturdy branch hit his arm and he quickly held tight to it. The speed of his fall almost tore the branch from his hand, but he held on, terror lending him strength, a grunt forced from his lips.

“Faramir!” He could hear the dread in Boromir’s voice.

“I am here. Slow down yourself else you lose your own balance. Father would never forgive us if we both ended up dead.” He tried to laugh to ease Boromir’s fears, but a sob escaped him instead.

“Are you hurt?” Boromir asked as, at last, he reached his brother. Not waiting for an answer, he pulled him to his body and held him tightly. “You scared the stuffing out of me,” he whispered words he had heard his mother say a thousand times. “Do not do that again.”

“I think I have broken something,” Faramir said, lips pressed together tightly.

“I will get you down. Do not be concerned. What is it that you have broken?”

“My pride!” He burst out laughing.

Boromir sat back against the rocks and stared at him. “I should kill you for that,” he muttered darkly.

Faramir started. “I am sorry.” He looked hard at his brother. “You are shaking!”

“What did you think? Of course I am shaking. We are almost at the bottom. You would have been impaled on the spikes. I cannot believe you can sit here and laugh!” Boromir turned away, not wanting Faramir to see the tears that sprang into his eyes at the thought.

Faramir leaned close and kissed his brother’s cheek. “I am truly sorry, Boromir. It was fright that made me laugh. I know what almost occurred. I… I am ready to go home.”

Boromir turned and hugged him tightly. “I cannot lose you, little brother.”

“I cannot lose you, big brother.”

~*~

Denethor stared, but said not a word. Faramir was limping as he came into the dining hall. ‘What has he been up to now?’ he thought ruefully. ‘What mischief has he been in? He is fifteen, a squire, and still he acts as a child. This cannot go on.’

Both his sons bowed and sat. The servants brought food and wine and left as quickly as they could. The scowl on Denethor’s face portended a bleak meal and they wanted none of it.

Silently, they ate. At last, Boromir could stand it no longer. “Father. Have you heard of the beasts of the Haradrim?”

Denethor looked at Faramir. “I have heard. What I have not heard is what mishap has occurred to cause your brother to limp.”

“We climbed the foot of Mindolluin. A slip sometimes happens with the marble veins running through it.”

“You did not slip,” their father said pointedly to his eldest.

“I did and Faramir…”

“I slipped, Father. Boromir couldn’t stop me from falling. It is just a twist of the ankle. I will be able to continue my duties.”

“Ah! So you remember you have duties?”

“Father!” Boromir stood tall. “It was an accident. We almost lost him.” Boromir began to shake again as the image of the spikes at the bottom of the mountain flashed before him. “We almost lost him,” he whispered and sat down.

Denethor’s face had gone white. “You… It is dangerous on the heights. I have slipped there myself, once or twice.”

“I have learned my lesson, Father. I promise I will be more careful.”

“That is all I can ask.” He breathed a deep sigh. “Though I ask you other things and you do not obey.”

Faramir’s face went red. He waited a moment. “I have never disobeyed you, Father. Not willfully.”

“You deem your own council better than mine, my son. I sit and watch you. I see you listen to my words and then go off and do what you will, not what I will.”

Swallowing, Faramir stood and walked to Denethor’s side. “You have taught me to think for myself, Father. It is your hand that you see, not mine.”

Denethor sat for a moment; then turned to Faramir, pulling the lad down, forcing him to kneel at the side of his chair. “When you think for yourself, my son,” he whispered, “you should first consider what I would do, what my wishes are. Am I not thy father? Am I not thy steward?”

The hairs on the back of Faramir’s neck stood up. “Thou art my dearest father, the wisest man I know, and I wouldst obey thee. But I would not be your son if I listened and did not then do what I consider right.”

Boromir laughed loudly. “He is correct, Father. You have taught us both well. We have watched you in the council meetings. You listen, then you do as you deem best.”

Denethor smiled, helped Faramir to his feet, and turned to his food. “My father called me disobedient, but I never was.” His smile had faded at the thought of Ecthelion. “Never.”

“Father. If you tell me not to do something, I do not do it. I have not deliberately met with the wizard. When we do encounter each other, usually in the Great Library, we speak only pleasantries. Then, I go about my business and he goes about his.”

“Then keep it thus, my son. I only tell you this to protect you. Wizards are cunning. They have their own thoughts and ideas as to how men should behave. The would put their schemes against Gondor, against me.” He shuddered at the memory of Curunír. “I only wish to protect you.”

“Father,” Boromir said, “let us visit mother’s garden after the meal?”

~*~

Both boys had gone back to their barracks and Denethor was left alone in the fragrant garden of Finduilas. His breath caught; he found it hard to breathe as he looked upon the beauty that she had created and that Indis had kept in her memory. He bent down to smell one of the iris and smiled. These were the children of the iris that Amdir and he had sought in Ithilien, found and brought back as children. Fragrant they were, more so than any other variety that he had ever seen. He was having more difficulty breathing and wondered why. ‘Faramir!’ he thought. ‘Today, unbeknownst to me, I almost lost him. And what memories would I have of him? My own stupidity! I have been unkind to the lad these last years. I have missed Boromir so very much, his laughter, his quick wit, and his lightning sword stroke. I have not been able to best him in three years. Whilst Faramir sat and watched my bitterness at his brother’s absence grow.’

He bent his head in shame. ‘I must attend his training matches more often. I must watch him and help him grow, as I did Boromir.’ He finally drew in a long deep breath, sat on a stoop near the railing that overlooked the White Tree, and cleared his mind. The boys were right. He did not usually take the council given him. Long had he been under the tutelage of Ecthelion – the harsh tutelage of his father. He had learned so much in that time. He had at last discovered and accepted his own worth, bereft of Ecthelion’s respect.

Boromir always obeyed him. When he spoke to Boromir, he had the lad’s entire mind. Then, Boromir would agree with him and set off, immediately, to do his father’s will. Faramir, on the other hand, would question him. He found it irritating. It was as if the boy, though only fifteen, did not trust his own father. Or that he thought he knew better, more. Denethor did not remember questioning his own father. Denethor did not dare question his own father. Why could not Faramir be more like him?

His chin quivered. It was better that Faramir was not. A tear slid down his face. Faramir was everything that he had been. A doting son, ever watchful, ever trying to please his father. Learning all he could to anticipate Ecthelion’s… He shivered. It was Faramir he was thinking of, not himself. ‘Father,’ his heart cried out in anguish, ‘why did you not love me?’

~*~

Faramir looked down upon the garden from Boromir’s window. He had gone back to fetch a knife Boromir had needed and saw his father in Finduilas’ garden. His father was hunched over and Faramir could see his shoulders shaking. He bit his lip. Should he go down? Nay, his presence might be more disturbing than comforting. ‘He loves you, Faramir,’ he remembered Boromir telling him. It was a hard truth to accept, what with how Denethor had treated him recently. He had been glad to move into the barracks, away from the sullen looks at the dining table, the sideways glances as they sat before the fire in Denethor’s study. It seemed all life had left his father when Boromir had been stationed away from Minas Tirith. Faramir turned and left the room.

“Father?”

“Have you broken your company’s curfew?”

“Nay, Father. Boromir was telling the men a tale and wanted to show them something. I ran to his rooms to retrieve it. I saw you here. Am I intruding?”

Denethor rubbed his eyes. “I would have you sit with me for a little while, but you must ask your captain’s permission. Faramir,” he shook his head in disappointment, “you must learn to be obedient and to place your duty before your needs, or mine. Go and ask your captain if you might take another hour before you have to return to your barracks, but do not tell him I am asking for you. I would like to see you arrange leave by your own wit.”

“I will return, Father.” He saluted and ran back through Finduilas’ rooms.

“I wonder.” Denethor smiled. Captain Inlach, recently returned from the garrison of East Osgiliath and newly promoted Captain of the Third Company of the Citadel, bristled with derision of all young squires. He would not let Faramir wheedle his way around the curfew laws. The boy would not return.

“Father,” astonished he heard the voice calling him just a quarter hour later.

He shook in fury. The lad had disobeyed, had snuck away from his own company. He stood and strode forward, hand raised, ready to slap Faramir as hard as he could across his face. “How dare you mock me? How dare you…”

“Father, I do not mock you,” the lad never flinched. “I received permission to come here.”

Denethor lowered his hand. He had never struck either boy. Gratitude filled him that he was able to stay his hand. “You tell me Captain Inlach allowed you to come here?”

“Aye, Father.”

“Why?” he almost bellowed the word out.

“I told him it was mother’s birth date and that I wanted time with her. He let me.”

“You lied?”

“Father. ‘Tis mother’s birth date. Today.”

Denethor shuddered, moaned and hid his face with his hands. “It cannot be. I have forgotten her birth date?”

“I thought that was why you wept…”

“I wept for you.” He lowered his hands and looked hard at Faramir.

“I wept for what you are becoming.”

“And what am I becoming, Father?”

Denethor bit his lip, clenched his hands upon the pommel of his sword, and strode back and forth in the moonlight. “You are becoming a true soldier of Gondor. And it would have broken your mother’s heart!”

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II.

The room was dark; the curtains closed for the night; all he heard was the sound of the night finch. He lay quietly, barely breathing as his thoughts rushed through his mind, keeping sleep from him. The years had flown and Boromir had grown in stature, strength and wit. Denethor could not be prouder. After the first two years in the Citadel’s garrison, the lad had been sent on sorties to neighboring fiefdoms. Captain Amlach had been badly injured during one of the many battles that the battalion from Osgiliath was confronted with and had been forced to retire from active duty. Denethor had commissioned him as tutor for Boromir. The man had shown himself a worthy captain, keeping West Osgiliath strong. He was also headstrong and would know how to control, yet not crush, Boromir’s own willfulness. Amlach, just two years past, had suggested that Boromir was ready for active patrol. Much as it grieved him, Denethor stationed Boromir at Amon Dîn. Though the garrison was only a two-day ride from the City, still he would miss their nightly meals, the weekly meetings. Boromir was never dull. His sleep-needy mind twinged with pain, but he still had to laugh. Nay, Boromir was not dull. In fact, the boy kept up such a lively conversation, Faramir still had trouble getting a word in edgewise. Most of it was talk of battles and such; Denethor could see his youngest flinch sometimes at the graphic nature of Boromir’s discourse. The boy was sorely missed.

Faramir suffered the most. Though the lad had been made squire the year before Boromir left, he was still too closely attached to Boromir. Denethor knew separation was needed. To wait further was to court danger. Faramir must learn to be his own man. The reports Denethor received from the lad’s captain only confirmed this – that Faramir leaned heavily upon his brother for companionship and counsel.

But now, Boromir had returned. He had come of age on his last birth day. Denethor smiled as he walked the parapet. Within a fortnight, he would take the boy to the sward of Mindolluin and perform the ceremony. Boromir would be named his Heir and receive the Keys of the Realm. Denethor’s heart pounded in his chest. He remembered when Ecthelion had taken him to the secret place. The ceremony itself was short, but the feeling of oneness with all of Gondor, from that great vantage point on the mountain, had continued to sustain him to this very day.

Faramir and Boromir. Two good, strong sons. His heart near burst with pride. He had made the arrangements, the same his own father had done for him so long ago. Procured three horses for the ride around the base of Mount Mindolluin, then sent a rider with the necessary supplies to be deposited at the appointed place. It would feel strange to not have his horn at his side. Strange indeed. But it was time to pass the gauntlet. Time to make Boromir Captain-General. He would not wait until the lad was older as his father had done. He wanted Boromir to feel secure in his station, secure in his knowledge that he was, indeed, the Heir of the Stewards of the Line of Húrin.

A shiver ran through him. 'What caused that?' he wondered. Mayhap 'twas thoughts of his own struggle with his father, with Thorongil, with the wizard. Had he been made Captain-General at his own ceremony, mayhap his path would have been different. He lowered his eyes. So much pain from that time. Would the estrangement have occurred? Would not Thorongil still be with Gondor, serving her as he felt he was meant to? For Thorongil had been a mighty warrior and wise, and, for a time, a good friend. All that had changed with the struggle for power. But who's struggle was it? Was it between Thorongil and himself? Or was it, in truth, between his father and himself? Was it leverage that his father tried to use to command obedience?

Obedience, that was the only thing ever on his father's mind. How often he had used it as an excuse to punish him. How often he had been banished for not obeying. Yet, never once had he disobeyed. Stood forward and took a stand when his father and the Council dawdled. Bitterness filled his heart. 'I cannot continue this. I must pull myself away from these thoughts. He remembered Faramir’s words from the night before. So my son does as I did? But I did not question my father, only those who counseled him. Faramir questions me! He turned over in his bed, pulled the covers over his head, and closed his eyes, willing himself to sleep before anger and frustration made it impossible.

~*~

They rode out at first light. This would be an extended trip for them. He wanted to feel Boromir at his side. The lad – he laughed – the man had a quiet confidence about him, like unto Amdir. Denethor had always been the weaker of the two, he now acknowledged, mostly due to his father’s scorn. Amdir, however, had held Denethor in the highest esteem, gleaning greatness from him. His brow furrowed as he thought of his friend.

Faramir moved his horse closer to his father’s. “It is a beautiful day for a ride, Father.” He had ceased calling Denethor Ada the day he became a squire. “Is there purpose to this outing?”

Denethor scowled. How like Faramir to question him! Boromir accepted his father’s command to ride with him, not asking where to, nor for how long. Boromir was comfortable in his trust of Denethor. Was that Faramir’s problem? Did he not trust his own father? Again, he remembered Ecthelion. The Steward had never trusted his son. Denethor felt anger course through him. Was it now his lot to have to earn his own son’s trust! Hs right hand clasped and unclasped his sword’s pommel. He would not! Facing Faramir with anger, he stopped the words that were ready to spill from his mouth. The look of hurt in Faramir’s eyes cut him to the quick.

Boromir, sensing the tension in his father, rode forward. “I am hungry,” he said pleasantly. “May we stop?”

Denethor pulled up and stared at his eldest as if he were some dragon come out of the sky.

“Father,” Boromir rode close enough to touch his father’s arm. “I think it is time we rested the horses.”

Denethor leaned back in his saddle, took a deep breath and agreed. “We will not light a fire; cook has prepared a cold repast. We will sit for half an hour and then proceed.” He dismounted and handed his reins to Faramir. “Make yourself useful. Lead the horses to water.” He bit his tongue after saying it, realizing his tone still carried anger mixed with scorn. Looking up, he put his hand on Faramir’s thigh as the boy turned his horse towards the nearby stream. “Do not be overlong. I would have you sit with me.” He had gentled his voice. The smile that filled Faramir’s face almost crushed his heart. Turning quickly to hide his weakness, he walked towards Boromir. “Give Faramir your horse too, and sit with me.”

Dismounting and giving his own reins to Faramir, Boromir patted his brother’s thigh. “Hurry!” he mouthed, smiled, and walked back to Denethor.

“When we camp tonight, Father, may I have a word with you, alone?”

Denethor smiled. Boromir had said, ‘when we camp.’ Faramir would have asked, ‘will we camp?’ Denethor loved the easy obedience of his eldest. Boromir’s captain reported the same to Denethor. He was an easy soldier, took everything given to him in stride, every command, and obeyed without question. Denethor stared at his son. Today, he would make Boromir Captain-General of all Gondor’s armies. Though for the moment it was a titular step, Boromir would someday actually captain the whole of Gondor. Was this easy-going, no questions asked kind of obedience suitable for the future Captain-General of Gondor? He wondered if he and Boromir’s tutors had been too focused on obedience.

Faramir walked towards them and sat next to Boromir. “The horses graze, Father.”

“Another moment, then we will be off.” Denethor stood. Too long in the saddle had made him stiff. He walked further away, contemplating his sons.

“He is not in the best of moods,” Boromir smiled. “I will keep my mouth closed and I think it would be wise if you did the same.”

Punching Boromir lightly on the arm, Faramir laughed quietly. “I have never been known to be quiet, but I will try to keep my tongue in check and my questions few.”

Boromir stared at Faramir. Had his brother forgotten…?

Faramir looked back, his smile widening. “What?”

“Do you not remember, as a child, rarely speaking? So few were your words that our father questioned if you would ever speak!”

“I do not remember,” chuckled Faramir. “It seems questions flow through my mind as the Anduin through Gondor.”

Denethor turned, signaled and Faramir ran for the horses, much to Boromir’s dismay. How could his father say Faramir was not obedient when all it took was a gesture from Denethor to send Faramir scurrying away for the horses.

It unsettled him.
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III.

Faramir espied the hut before Denethor did. “Is that what you were looking for, Father?”

Denethor nodded tiredly. Long in the saddle after years of only short travels caused stiffness in his knees. He smiled. ‘I am getting old.’

The three men pulled their horses up to the hut. Denethor dismounted and handed his reins to Faramir, then went into the hut. Faramir smiled at Boromir. “I think we should make a fire?”

“Good plan,” Boromir chuckled. “I am starving. There is probably feed for the horses in the shed. Would you take care of them while I unload the hay?”

Faramir took Boromir’s reins, dismounting himself, and took the horses towards the shed behind the hut. There, he unsaddled them, pumped fresh water into the trough, then pulled his tunic off and ducked his head under the spigot, soaking his head thoroughly. Just as he made to stand up, a hand held him down. He heard the pump being furiously moved and water gushed all over him. Boromir’s laughter peeled through the shed.

“I could sneak up on you in daylight!” he chided.

Faramir wiped his tunic over his wet hair and blushed. “I… let my guard down. Will I ever learn, Boromir?”

“You trust too much, little brother. Because Father and I are here, you assume all is well. It makes me proud that you think so well of me, but you cannot trust anyone fully, Faramir. As much as we have to rely upon each other, you must still always be alert. Not only for your sake, but for mine, and the men you will eventually command.”

“I will never command men.”

Boromir shook his head, walked over to Faramir and hugged him. “Little brother, whether you want it or no, you will someday command even a garrison. You are the son of the Steward. You have duties. One of which is to become such a great soldier, not good, but great, that your men will trust you with their very lives.”

“It is not that I do not want to command, Boromir,” Faramir said quietly. “I do not think Father will let me command.”

Boromir leaned against a stall. “He will.” He stopped and looked at Faramir. “You have grown while I have been away, little brother. But you are still a squire. You have much to learn.” Boromir chuckled, “As do I. When your time comes, you will command. Do not hurry it, little brother. I would you would stay out of battle for as long as is possible. It is not enjoyable.”

Faramir attempted to pull Boromir down onto the floor. “We have hardly had a moment to talk since you returned. Would you tell me what you have seen, what you have learned?”

“I have learned that Father will be most displeased if we do not join him in the hut. He is probably waiting for us as we speak. And I, for one, do not like to keep the Steward of Gondor waiting!” He offered a hand to Faramir.

“When?” Faramir asked as he clasped his brother’s hand and stood. “Can we not speak tonight, mayhap? After Father is abed?”

“We have no idea what the morrow brings, Faramir. We must sleep so that we are prepared for whatever it is that Father is about. I wish he would have told us what the purpose of this journey is, but since we do not know, we must keep up our strength. There could be some test planned. We must be alert.”

Faramir looked up as his father’s voice called to them. “Then I will wait, but not patiently, Boromir. I have so much to learn. Most of it in my dealings with Father. I cannot abide this separation that grows between us. “

They walked together towards the hut, noting the smoke coming from the opening in its roof. Boromir smelled fresh rabbit and wondered what other goodies Cook had supplied.

He was not long in finding nor in finishing off the last of the meal. It was good and plentiful. He noted that there were supplies stacked against the wall of the hut. Cook had not sent the food they ate tonight of that he was now sure. He looked sideways at his father but said nothing. ‘So, this trip has been planned for some time,’ he thought. ‘To what purpose do we ride here?’ he wondered. ‘There have been no talk of attacks of any kind on Lebennin or its surrounding country. Yet, why would Father bring us here?’ He smiled. ‘I am beginning to sound like Faramir.’

Faramir ate with his head bent. He had learnt, in these last three years that his father did not like to speak during meals. Wiping his lips with his tongue, he wondered at the change. Always before Boromir was sent off, they would sit and discuss troops and supplies, Orc activity and the Haradrim and Easterlings, stories of Númenor… this had all changed, once Boromir no longer shared their meals.

“I have not been here in a long while, Father. Did you come because this is the month of Naneth’s birth? Are we to visit Belfalas?”

Denethor looked up in surprise. He had forgotten Boromir’s penchant for chatting at the dining table. He smiled warmly. He had missed this. He missed so many things about his son. “We are not going to Belfalas, nor any further south, Boromir. We are going to climb Mindolluin and see what we can see.”

Boromir looked at Faramir, his brow crinkling with questions. But he kept his tongue. His father would tell him what his purpose was, now that Boromir had opened the door. He tried to warn Faramir to keep still, but he failed to catch the boy’s eye.

“Mindolluin, Father? Why are we going to climb the mountain?”

“Because I say so,” Denethor spoke more harshly than he had wanted. He bent his head and rubbed his hand over his upper lip. He looked up at Faramir and smiled gently. “You were never so inquisitive when you were younger, when your mother was alive.”

Faramir drew in his breath. “I do not remember that, Father. I meant no disrespect.”

“Do you not trust me, Faramir?” Denethor asked quietly. “Do you believe that I know not what I do or why I do it?”

Faramir’s cheeks blazed in shame. Before he could speak, Boromir stood. “I have had enough of this, the both of you. I am gone two short years and I come home to strangers. Father,” he turned towards Denethor, “Faramir trusts you. Let that say it all.”

This time, Denethor’s cheeks blazed, but not in anger. “You speak well, my son.” He turned and looked squarely at his youngest. “I do not question your obedience, Faramir. You have promised me that you will obey me. I wonder have I lost your trust?”

It was Faramir’s turn to stare at his father. “I cannot say I do not trust you, Father. My mind questions everything, everyone. I call it curiosity. My head sometimes hurts from the thoughts that swirl about it. Would you ask me to remain still?”

“I ask you to show me the respect I am due as your father and your Steward.” He tried to keep the anger out of his voice. A pain shot through his own head, but he knew the source of it. “I will say no more.”

Denethor turned away from both boys, took off his boots, and lay down, pulling a cover over him.

Boromir stared. He had asked his father to speak with him tonight. Alone. Yet, obviously that was not what his father planned. And, he was surprised at the suddenness of his father’s dismissal. He turned towards Faramir. ‘Wait,’ he mouthed. Faramir nodded. Boromir lay down himself and Faramir followed his example.

Shortly after, Boromir stirred. His father’s breathing was steady and quiet. He crawled to Faramir’s side, woke his brother, and snaked across the floor, nothing that Faramir followed. Once they were outside the hut, he stood, brushed off his tunic and walked to the horses’ shed. Sitting on a bench in front of it, he started a small fire. Faramir joined him.

“Tell me of Father.”

Faramir started. “There is naught to tell. He is the same as he always has been.”

“If that is what you think, then you need training in observation,” Boromir said dryly. “Father has changed, and not for the good. I do not understand his barbs at you. I do not understand his closeness; he keeps things to himself. He used to share with me, with us. What has happened since I have been gone?”

Boromir now wished he had spent more time on the short furloughs that he had received to spend with his father and his brother. He only stayed a few nights in the city and would rush back to his company and his assignment. The excitement of being in the Steward’s army was not as he had told Faramir. It was exciting. They had numerous skirmishes with Orc and Easterling. Boromir had found he was very good at battle, and the thrill of it, at times, betook him.

Yet, now he sat, convicted of dereliction to the duty he held to Denethor and Faramir. “I am sorry I have been gone so long; that my visits to Minas Tirith have been so short. I must rely upon you to speak to me; tell me all that has occurred since last I was home for a long visit.”

“Father does what he must. Council meetings and such fill his day.” Faramir twirled a stick in the small fire at his feet. “He spends much time in judgment. The people seem to grow wicked. Nay, that is not the word. Needy?” He sighed heavily. “It is as if they have lost their way. They turn up at the Citadel with the most foolish complaints; neighbor against neighbor. I do not understand it.”

Boromir shivered and Faramir noted it. “You have seen the same behavior in the field?”

“I have. I have noted it among the men in my company, even. The landowners to the north of Amon Dîn squabble over nothing. I have not seen the like before; else I never noticed it before.” Boromir’s brow furrowed.

“The mountain rumbles more than it has a long time, Boromir. Can you see it from Amon Din?”

“Aye, the whole range. Though we do not feel the trembles as much as we do at home. Do you think it is the One we do not name, Faramir, that causes this dissension?”

“Mithrandir does,” Faramir said quietly.

“So you lied. You do speak with the wizard!” Denethor’s furious voice interrupted them.
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IV.

Indis watched as the men rode off across the Pelennor. She smiled at the sight and prayed to the Valar that all would go well. Denethor was well away from the city for a time. He needed the rest; he used the Palantír too often, in her mind. She noted he had been having head aches of late. He would come from the Tower washed as white as snow. Never had he had the weakness that she had seen the one time, but still, using it drained him. She could not count the number of times she asked him to lessen his use of the weapon. He would hear nothing of it. He deemed it too valuable. Many times had he seen the enemy coming towards Gondor and been able to send out patrols, in time, to thwart them.

She had many duties to perform while Denethor was out of the city. He had left her in charge of the tribunal – a duty that repulsed her. The greed, the avarice, the sloth, the hatred that she saw too many times in the supplicant’s faces frightened her. Slowly, she had noted her people’s high character spiraling downwards. She had spoken of it with Denethor, but he had no reason for the change. She remembered watching her father’s tribunal and not seeing such foul behaviour.

As she sat on the Steward’s Chair, waiting for the first petitioner, she read Morwen’s letter. Théodwyn flourished with her husband. She now had two strapping children for Rohan. Théoden, whenever he visited Minas Tirith, never failed to regale Denethor with tales of the children and what fine warriors they were. Even the youngest, little Éowyn! Only two years old, and to hear the story they last heard, the child had already slain a warg. Indis laughed quietly to herself. She had chided Théoden for his tall tales, but he only smiled, kissed her, and continued with another fantastic story. She adored Théoden. He had grown to be such a strong and wise king. His father would be most proud of him.

The morning began as she thought. She sat up straighter in her brother’s chair and listened as one after another came and accused a neighbor, a friend, even a brother of atrocities against themselves. Slowly, she realized that most of the petitioners were from the east, those who lived closest to Mordor. Was there some reason for this? Had the One they do not name caused such rancor among her people? She would have to bring this to Denethor’s attention, but first she would examine this, make a list of all the petitioners, where they came from, and the nature of their grievance. She was afraid of what she would find. Evil ever spilled from beyond the Ephel Dúath. Did it now affect even her people’s minds?

Berelach strode towards the Chair. Indis sighed with relief. She had sat for more than fours hours listening to her people’s complaints. It was time for nuncheon. She smiled gratefully at Denethor’s aide, then hitched her breath. The man’s face was drawn. Something was amiss.

~*~

Faramir scrambled to his feet as did Boromir. Cheeks on fire, Faramir opened his mouth to speak but Denethor would have none of it.

“I need not hear any more of your lies. Go!” He pointed to the hut. Boromir noted how Denethor’s finger shook and nodded as Faramir looked towards him. ‘Go!’ he mouthed. Faramir turned and walked stiffly towards the hut.

When he was inside, Boromir turned towards their father. Denethor’s breath was coming in short gasps. Boromir bit his tongue. Nothing he could say, for the moment, would dispel the anger in his father’s eyes. He sat quietly, took up a stick, and poked at the embers of the fire.

Denethor looked askance. He had expected Boromir to defend his brother, as he always did. Perhaps the lad was growing, learning to understand Denethor’s anger and frustration. He sat next to his eldest, held out his hands for warmth and - sobbed.

Boromir stilled himself. He would not let his father know he had heard the stifled sob and wondered, pain filling his heart. Denethor, for all his anger, was still his father; the beloved man who taught him how to fish, how to wield a sword properly, how to hold his head up when he was being reprimanded by a superior. He had seen his father do the same, when he was a child, with Ecthelion. Never had his father done the same to him. He wondered now why Denethor treated Faramir as he had been treated. He kept still.

Denethor bent forward, placed his elbows on his knees and rested his head in his hands. Finally he sighed, pulled his hands over his face, and leaned back against the shed. “You do not approve of my discipline of Faramir?” he asked quietly.

“You are my father and my Steward. It is not my place to question you.”

Denethor gave a rueful laugh. “Can not you teach your brother the same thing?”

“He did not tell untruths, Father. Faramir has never lied in his entire life. You know that.” Boromir hoped his father had calmed enough to listen to reason.

Thought of the wizard caused Denethor to sit up straight. “I do not know that!”

“Father.” Boromir shrugged. “You are wiser than I. I know Faramir does not tell untruths; therefore, you must know it too. Is it the wizard? Would you tell me why you hate him so?”

Again Denethor rubbed his hands over his face. “I do not hate… I fear him.” At Boromir’s gasp, Denethor smiled. “When you were younger, you told me that I fear nothing. You are older now, Boromir. Can you not see that even I, Steward of Gondor, can fear?”

“Of course, Father. I have been in battle now. I know what fear is. And it makes me no less a man to have it. I understand now. But I do not understand the fear you have for Mithrandir. He seems harmless enough. I have never once seen him cast a spell.” He chuckled. “I sometimes wonder if he truly is a wizard.”

“He is, Boromir, believe me.” And the force with which Denethor said the simple statement caused Boromir to kneel at his father’s feet.

“Tell me, Father, please. So that I might understand and be forewarned.”

“Do you remember the wizard Curunír?”

“I do, Father. But he has been long away from the city.”

“He was wont to spend time in the Great Library, when he visited. It was once my favorite place too.” He shuddered visibly and Boromir took his father’s hands in his own. “I do not know, I cannot tell you what he did to me, Boromir, but he frightened me. Not with words, or enchantments, but in my mind. I have long disciplined myself to never allow another into my mind. Yes,” he said quietly at the pressure he felt from Boromir’s hands. “He entered my mind, of that I am sure. What he did there,” another shudder passed through Denethor’s frame, “I cannot tell. I have no memory of it”

After many moments of silence, Denethor continued. “When Mithrandir first visited Minas Tirith, a sense of fear and disquiet filled me. Even though older, I still felt the familiar shudder of horror, aye, horror, fill my very being. Eventually, I was able to overcome those feelings. Your grandfather valued Mithrandir’s counsel. He listened to him above me. I was not a child any longer, Boromir. I was a captain in my own rite. Mithrandir valued a certain man who served under Ecthelion. Do you remember him, Boromir? Thorongil?”

“I do, Father,” Boromir said unhesitatingly. “I remember him well. He visited our rooms at times, did he not, ate with us?”

“He did. He was a good friend. For a time.” Denethor bit his lip at the memory. “Father, listening to the wizard, was going to make him Captain-General.”

Boromir gasped. “Over you, Father?”

“Aye. Thorongil was a great captain, Boromir. He had won an unexpected and decisive victory over the forces of Harad. When he came back from that campaign, Father was going to name him Captain-General.”

Sitting back against the shed, Boromir drew in a great breath. “I can understand, to a point, Ecthelion’s justification for such an action, but I think he was wrong. Are you sure Mithrandir suggested Thorongil be raised?”

“No,” Denethor said quizzically. “I am not sure. I assumed. Mayhap it was the distant voice of Curunír. Ever I hear him rattling in my mind.” Denethor laughed scornfully as Boromir stared at him. “Not actually words, but a sense that he still holds some sway over me. I oft wondered. There were times, Boromir, when I would not remember what we spoke of, when the wizard would hold me in his thrall. That frightens me to this day.”

“And makes you frightened of Mithrandir?”

“Not frightened. Wary.” His father’s voice had turned harsh again and Boromir turned the subject back to the one he was trying to save.

“So you were not strong enough, when you were Faramir’s age, to battle the wizard?”

“I was not. And neither is your brother. He is soft,” Denethor spit the word out as if it were some hated word. “I am afraid for him.” His voice had dropped. “I would not have him suffer the same degradation I felt, the same fear I felt, the same…” Denethor drew in a long breath, “the same helplessness I felt.” He smiled and helped Boromir to his feet. “You are turning into a diplomat, my son. So you are saying I must be patient with Faramir?”

Boromir smiled back, helped his father stand, and hugged him fiercely. “I love you both too much to see you battle each other. There are other foes for us to fight.”

Denethor returned the hug, feeling the warmth of Finduilas, through her son. “I love you, Boromir, never forget that.”

“And I you, Father. I speak not on Faramir’s behalf only for his sake. He is part of you, part of Naneth. You injure yourself when you disparage him.”

Denethor looked long into his eldest eyes. “I had hoped to sleep some tonight. But I see I am thwarted in that hope. I have a few bundles that we must bring with us. Let us go back to the hut and get Faramir. It is time to leave.”

Boromir stared, then moved forward. Entering the hut, he smiled at Faramir, who sat huddled by the stove. “Come, little brother. We are off on an adventure.”

Denethor entered and began handing them carefully wrapped packages. Faramir’s hand touched his and he looked long and hard at his youngest. “You are needed,” he whispered. Then, he turned and left them. They scrambled to hitch on their swords, Faramir’s heart had lept at his father’s whispered words; his eyes filled with questions. Boromir shoved pieces of bread and cheese into his pockets, shrugged and then followed Faramir out the door. They noted, as they left their little rest stop, Denethor was well on his way up the mountain and attempted to catch up with him.

Denethor bit his lip as he walked up the mountain. His sons followed him. Long hours passed; he knew it would take most of the night to reach their destination. He rued the fact that he had not had any sleep. Shaking his head, he smiled. ‘I will sleep once this is over with.’ Boromir and Faramir never said a word until he stopped four hours into their climb. The slope was steeper and they had all they could do to channel their energies towards the climb, not to speech. They rested for but a moment, then their father rose and climbed higher.

When at last Denethor sat on a slope high above the city, both boys collapsed. He laughed out loud. “You are so out of training that you cannot walk up a little hill without breathing hard!”

“You,” Boromir accused laughingly, “have known we were coming here and have trained for mountain climbing!”

“I did not,” Denethor smiled. “But I am always in training. No time for frivolity for the Steward.” He sighed to himself, ‘Alas, there will be fewer opportunities for frivolity for the Steward’s sons.’

He stood again and both boys groaned. Laughing, he turned from them and climbed upward.

Once they reached a small flat space high above the city, Denethor stopped. The sun’s first rays could be seen on the horizon. Boromir collapsed, as did his brother. Denethor took the bundles from them and walked towards the middle of the spot. Boromir noted that there was almost no sign of human movement here, yet the area was free from brush and scrub. Denethor motioned them forward.

“It is time. Stand here, Boromir,” he pulled Boromir to his right. “And thee Faramir, stand here.” He placed Faramir on his left. Standing facing the east, he stilled himself and closed his eyes. His sons stood waiting and wondering. At last, their father opened his eyes. “Look at this scene before thee, my sons. As the sun rises over our land, so it rises over all of Middle earth. We of Gondor are caretakers of this land, stewards, not only of Minas Tirith, but also of all Middle-earth. Though some would begrudge us this, thinking we think more of ourselves than is our due. But the men of Númenor fill this land. We do not know where all of them still reside, nor do we know how many of the Westernesse, the Faithful, live beyond our borders, yet, I am sure they do. And somewhere, my sons,” he said wistfully, “the King of Gondor lives. We await his return.”

A shiver ran down his back.

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V.

“My Lady,” Berelach saluted her. “There is trouble in Osgiliath and Cair Andros,” he said quietly.

She waved the last petitioner away and the hall cleared at her signal. “What sort of trouble, Captain?”

“Orc spill from the Ephel Dúath and Easterlings from the Black Gate. A mighty army, my Lady. The garrisons will not hold at their present strength.”

“Call the Steward’s captains at once. I want them in Denethor’s study within the hour. And have the alarm horns sounded every hour until I tell them to stop.”

“The Steward?” Berelach asked.

“Is away.”

He saluted and left. The guard on her right moved towards her at a wave of her hand. “Ask Listöwel to join me in the study.”

The guard saluted and turned to leave. She stopped him with a word. “Have food ordered and brought to us, once you have sent for her. I do not think another opportunity to eat will arise this day. And send for an errand-rider.” She dismissed the man.

Staring unseeing before her, she wondered how the enemy had known Denethor was away from the city.

~*~

Standing quietly for nigh unto an hour, the three waited. Anor’s first light broke over the mountains. Just the hint of light crept up behind the Ephil Dúath. As they watched, the sky lightened further. The black of the mountains heightened in colour in contrast to the grey that slowly spread from the horizon. Orodruin itself blazed red now and again. The sun’s true self rose over the mountains and they could barely see the molten fire in the blaze of Anor. At last, the sun had risen, shining forth so brightly that they could no longer look at it.

Denethor took in a deep breath. “Didst thou see that?” he asked, his voice strong and firm.

Boromir creased his brow, trying to understand what his father wanted him to see. He kept still.

“Nothing o’ershadows the sun?” Faramir whispered, not sure if he was bidden speak.

Denethor’s brow raised.

“Evil cannot prevail?” Boromir questioned.

“I am proud of thee both. For years, I tried to hide thy mother from the mountains,” Denethor’s voice cracked. “I would show her the strength of Gondor, as I show thee now the strength of Anor. She could not see it. Or she would not. I do not know.” He swallowed hard. “Would that she could have seen Gondor from this vantage point. E’en at its height, the sun was o’ershadowded from her window.”

He pulled his shoulders back. “We will speak of her no more. She is a sign of weakness. We will only speak of those things that give us strength – from this day forward.”

“Father!” Faramir whispered in horror and Boromir joined his voice with his brother’s, “Father!”

Faramir continued. “Are we not to speak Nana’s name again?” Tears welled in his eyes and Boromir fought his own.

“That is my decision.” Denethor clenched his teeth. “She brings only thoughts of despair and death.”

“Nay, Father,” Boromir spoke up. “She is joy and love and laugher.” Boromir put his hand on his father’s sleeve. “Dost thou not know she was ill, in the end? Her illness does not make her something to abhor!”

“She was weak!” Denethor stated shortly. He turned viciously towards his eldest, grabbing his arms in a powerful grip. “She was weak and we cannot be weak. We must be strong, for Gondor. Thou must be strong for Gondor, Boromir! Like the sun, like the precious jewel that thou art! Thou must make thyself hard and strong and keep weakness as far from thee as Valinor is from this wretched mountain before us. Dost thou understand?” His face was twisted in pain. He shook Boromir in the passion of his words.

Faramir put a hand on his father’s arm. “Father!” he cried, “Thou art hurting Boromir!”

Denethor blinked, then blinked again. He looked upon his son, now full grown and taller than himself. He took in a ragged breath and let his hands fall.

“We have… He paused for a moment to collect himself. Boromir shot a look of gratitude to Faramir.

The horns of Gondor split the air with their warning sound. Denethor paled and looked towards the city. Nothing seemed amiss from this vantage point. Boromir moved to gather their things. Denethor put his arm up and stopped him. “Please kneel, my son.” Denethor said quietly. “I had other things I wanted to do. But they must be put aside for now. However, nothing must stop this part of the ceremony at least, what we are about at this moment, for if this is not accomplished, Gondor will be weakened.”

Boromir looked at his father in amaze. What could be more important than the warning calls of Gondor’s horns! Shivering, he knelt, his heart racing, trying to understand his father’s plans further than his scaring the daylight out of him with the hard grip, harsh words and his disregard for the horns’ call.

“Today, thou hast come of age, my son. Long has the tradition of the line of the House of Húrin been that the Steward of Gondor, upon his son’s coming of age, should confer upon him the title, Heir of Gondor. So now, my beloved Boromir, do I name thee.” His hands held Boromir in a kneeling position before him. “Arise! Son of the Steward! Arise! Heir of the Steward! Arise! Man of Gondor! Arise! Lord of Gondor!” He lifted his hands and helped Boromir stand.

Tears flowed down Boromir’s cheeks as he realized what his father had done. He had not expected this, not this year. He had been taught that the ceremony would take place on his twenty-first birth day. What had made his father change the date?

“As is the custom,” Denethor continued, “I pass to thee the Keys of the Realm. In further days, we will walk together and open every door, box, tower and drawer locked against thee.” He handed Boromir a hug set of keys. “These are to be held in trust until the King comes.”

Boromir placed the keys upon his belt.

“As is the custom,” Denethor continued, “I pass to thee the Horn of Gondor.” Boromir took a step backwards, drawing in a sharp breath. He was not to take the horn until he was named Captain-General and that was many years away still. Denethor took the horn and removed it from his own neck, stepping once again in front of Boromir and placed it around his son’s own neck.

His eyebrow arched as he smiled. “I see thou knowest what this means. I am glad thou art so sharp-witted. With this horn, I confer upon thee the title of Captain-General of all the Armies of Gondor.”

Boromir stepped back again in amaze. He was not even a captain of Gondor yet; how could he be her Captain-General?

Denethor smiled warmly. “Today, I name thee Captain of the garrison of Eilenach. The people will know thou art Captain only. Faramir is witness to thy further title. Of course, those who are astute in the ways of Gondor, especially the other captains, wilt know, when they see the Horn of Gondor on thy person, what has transpired. And thou wilt have their respect for the title. But thou must still earn their respect, Boromir; that I cannot give thee.”

“Here.” Denethor pulled a long sword from the packages they had carried up the mountain. “Here is the sword of the Captain-General, made by the smithies of Gondor. And a dirk to match it. Swear that thou wilt wield it for Gondor’s defense, my son.”

“I swear, my Steward,” Boromir said, his own voice cracking as he looked with awe at the beautiful blade in his hands. It was heavier than any blade he had ever held, but it was fair and strong. He looked at his father in love. “I swear, Father, that I wilt wield it as thou has wielded thine, in strength and fortitude and perseverance with honour and courage.” The blade's flattened diamond shape and equally wide fuller reduced weight, yet retained strength in the end of the blade by stopping just short of the tip. The guard, similar to that of his father's sword, showed a warrior's flourish in that it was formed from a square-edged piece of steel that had been twisted before being curved into a crescent. The handgrip was wide like the blade, and the pommel was an elegant and simple piece of steel that added weight to balance the blade.

Impulsively, Boromir stepped forward and hugged Denethor, the sword still in his hand.

Faramir found the sheath and belt in the packages and brought them forth. “If I may, Father?” he asked and Denethor granted his request. Boromir turned towards his little brother and Faramir clasped the belt around Boromir’s waist; then attached the sheath to it. Boromir kissed the blade, barely choking back further tears and sheathed it. His hands trembled as he held onto the pommel. He was the Heir. He was Captain-General of Gondor. He was loved and respected by his father and his brother. He would not fail them, he swore quietly, nor Gondor.

“There are…” Denethor began but the horns sounded again. Denethor blanched. “Come, my sons. We are needed.” They scrambled to gather their things, then hurtled themselves down the mountain. Gondor was in desperate need of her Steward the horns cried.

~*~

They reached the hut as the sun descended behind the White Mountains. Faramir quickly built a small fire and boiled water for tea. Boromir checked their mounts. The horses looked rested and ready. Denethor sat, his eyes distant. “I should have looked before I started this venture,” he mumbled quietly. Boromir stared at him as he entered the hut, wondering what his father spoke of. Faramir only shrugged while rummaging through their supplies. There was enough meal left for a small dinner. They would have to go without breakfast. The tea was ready and they sat and ate in silence. At last, Denethor stood.

“It is time to leave.”

“Father, you did not slept last night and the climb up and back down the mountain was strenuous. You must… we must rest else we fall from our horses in exhaustion.”

Faramir joined with Boromir – both boys were concerned for their father and both boys rued the fact that they had been the cause of their father’s lack of sleep the night before. “The horses are rested and ready, Father. We will have no trouble pushing them. If we take but two hour’s rest now, we should arrive at the Great Gate by midnight.”

Denethor stood – torn. Finally, rubbing his hand over his face, he agreed. All three lay down and slept immediately. Precisely two hours after they had fallen asleep, Denethor was awake, stoking the fire. He made tea quickly, then shook Boromir. “Prepare our horses: we leave in a quarter hour.” Boromir nodded and ran to the shed. Denethor called Faramir who rose and began packing the last of their supplies. He handed his father a biscuit and ate his as he packed. Boromir returned. “We are ready, Father.” Denethor nodded. Adding the packs to the horses, they quickly mounted and headed east. There was no moon nor stars to guide them, but Denethor knew this land well. His sons followed.
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VI.

Gelmir, Captain of Henneth Amrûn, and Gwinhir, Captain of the garrison at Pelargir stood beside Derufin and Duilin. They spread maps out on the study's table – maps that Denethor himself had made – of Northern Ithilien. Gildor, Captain of the First Company, and Gorlim, Captain of the Second, stood at Indis' side. Berelach waited quietly near the door. Ever his heart and mind waited for his own captain. He felt lacking without his Steward beside him.

"We will send one battalion to Cair Andros and one to Henneth Annûn. You will command them, Gildor, from West Osgiliath. Gorlim, you will send a battalion to Henneth Amrûn and one to East Osgiliath. You will command from West Osgiliath also." Gildor nodded to his aide; Derufin saluted and left. Gorlim did the same and his aide, Duilin, saluted and left.

Indis smiled. "Dúinhir's sons appoint themselves well?" Both captains smiled and agreed.

“They are becoming the mightiest archers in all of Gondor,” Gildor stated proudly.

"Gelmir," she turned to the captain, "you will place your four companies under Gorlim's command. Gwinhir, I will not send any further men to Pelargir as of now. I want no troops moved from West Osgiliath. You are sure there was no sign of attack on either of your posts?" she asked Gelmir and Gwinhir. Both captains said, nay.

"I cannot appropriate men from Amon Dîn nor from Pelargir,” Indis continued. “I fear further attacks may be imminent." All four nodded in agreement. “The signal came from Cair Andros two hours ago, as well as the signal from Osgiliath. Methinks that means they were attacked at the same time. Which leads me to believe that they are keeping their strength together; Easterlings only attacking Cair Andros and Orc only attacking Osgiliath."

"I agree, my Lady, since they attack from the north and the east; I would have expected an attack from the south. There has been none. Though no signal has been sent from my men, I have been away far too long. By your leave, Lady Indis, I would return to my garrison?" Gwinhir petitioned.

"Of course, Gwinhir. And you too, Gelmir. The Steward thanks you for your reports to the Council this past week. Keep the signals ready. I would know of your need at first sign of attack."

"Aye, my Lady," Gwinhir nodded.

Both men saluted and strode out of the room.

"The Steward, Lady Indis?" Gorlim asked.

"Will return on the morrow. We cannot wait for him."

"Have you heard nothing from Rohan?" Gildor asked.

"Nothing. I sent four errand-riders for reports as soon as the alarm was given. I do not want to light the beacons, as of yet, though I fear we might soon."

"Not for help, surely?" Gorlim exclaimed.

"Nay. For information. We must know how our allies fare. The same for the southern beacons. I would know what is happening along the coast, with Belfalas. I sent another two riders to Dol Amroth. I will not recall the battalion that trains in Lossarnach, not yet. Moving the First and Second Company’s troops from Minas Tirith will leave her practically defenseless, with only the men of the Third Company and the Tower Guard to protect her."

"We are spread rather thin. I am surprised…" Gildor bit his lip.

Indis turned to him, taken aback. "You are surprised?"

Turning red, Gorlim said, "I believe Gildor wondered about the Lord Steward's foresight."

Shaking with anger, Berelach strode forward. "The Lord Steward knows everything. Mayhap this is a test of your readiness."

Gorlim blanched. "He would do no such thing!"

Indis put up her hand for silence. "The Lord Steward indeed has the gift of foresight, but that does not mean," she looked hard and long at Berelach, "that he knows everything, nor can discern the plans of the enemy even before the enemy knows his own plans."

Gorlim gave a small laugh. "Of course, my Lady." He apologized quickly. "The Steward has shown," again his face turned red, "amazing abilities at times. His men, in their love and admiration, forget he is human, after all."

Berelach stood down, swallowing hard.

"He is all too human and relies heavily upon his captains to keep their heads and do what is needed." She gently reprimanded them all. "He will return on the morrow and be pleased that we have begun Gondor's response."

They bowed, saluted and left, hoping their indiscretion would not be reported to their Captain-General.

Berelach stood before her, breathing hard.

"Berelach, I appreciate your loyalty to my brother, but you must control yourself."

"My Lady, I will." His pained look made her relent. He spoke again, this time in a softer voice. "I see what he does for our people; I see the strain he puts his body through for Gondor."

She stared at him. "Of what do you speak, Berelach?"

"He goes to the tower, almost daily, and…" he bit his lip, "when he returns his eyes are glazed, his step weak. I know not what he does there, but it takes its toll, whatever it is. I know it is for Gondor's weal, but I fear for him."

"Would that others were so observant," she said bitterly. "How often does he go there, Berelach?" She was becoming worried; she had noted her brother's weariness.

"He goes at least once a day, my Lady."

"Once a day!" she almost shouted. "Berelach, you must tell me the next time he goes there."

"I will, my Lady, I promise."

She turned towards the map-covered desk. "When he returns, you will be the first to know. Please send a messenger to me. I must see him before…" She took in a shuddering breath; then waved Berelach away.

‘I must stop him. This is too much. He will waste away to nothing; eaten up by that… thing!’

Listöwel appeared as soon as she noted all had left the room. "Indis!" she cried as she saw her friend leaning over and holding onto the desk, her knuckles showing white from the grasp of the hard wood.

Indis collapsed in her arms. Leading her towards a chair, Listöwel called for the guard. When he entered, she ordered a healer brought.

"Nay!" Indis cried. "I am only tired. Just tea and something to eat."

The guard saluted and went to carry out her orders.

"Will you now tell me what terror has gripped you these past weeks?"

"I am afraid for Denethor. He does not sleep, nor hardly eats. There is nothing I can do for him, but I must try. Forgive me, dearest sister-friend, for causing you alarm."

"I am only alarmed because I love you. I would not see you suffer if there is aught I can do to prevent it!"

~*~

They rode their horses hard, each man silent, knowing that the hourly blowing of the alarm meant Gondor was under attack. As they approached the Rammas, Denethor pulled up.

"Boromir." His son pulled up next to him. The Steward placed his hand on his eldest's shoulder. "We will part ways here. You must put aside your new command whilst we take up the burden of this assault. Ever the enemy attacks Osgiliath. I am sure this latest is against the old capital. Go there now and report to Captain Guilin. Do what he needs!" He looked long and hard at his son. "You have the Horn. Ever have the Steward's blown it before leaving on a mission. Do so now. It will put fear in the hearts of our enemy and courage in the hearts of our men! But, do not wind it again unless at your final need. Its sound is known even to the Orc. They will step back, if only for a moment. That should avail you the time needed to escape." He heard Faramir suck in his breath, knowing what his father's words meant. "Tell the captain I want reports every four hours. And – take care, ion nîn. Return to me!" He pushed his son away and turned his own horse towards the city.

Boromir tentatively put the horn to his lips. His father did not look back. He took a deep breath and blew with all his might. A squeal came out of the horn and Boromir reddened.

“Try again, Boromir. You can do it.”

Boromir smiled. “I wish I had had a moment to try this in some secret place, Faramir, not here on the Pelennor itself with the wind carrying the pitiful sound to the very walls of the city.” He lowered his head for a moment, then blew again. A clear, rich sound rent the air. Boromir’s face lit up as did Faramir’s.

“That was wonderful!” Faramir cried. Boromir smiled, hugging him fiercely. “Farewell, little brother. Keep the city safe for me!”

Faramir's eyes stung with tears as he watched Boromir wave to him, then ride off.

Denethor rode like the wind. Faramir could not catch him, but continued to follow. Their horses' flanks were covered in white sweat, mouths frothed. Faramir, wanting to reach the city as quickly as possible, still bled for his stead's pain. Finally, Denethor's horse stumbled and fell. Faramir pulled up and jumped off his own horse. Denethor was already standing, a dirk in his hand. As Faramir watched in horror, Denethor shoved the blade into his mount’s heart. Sobbing, Faramir looked away.

"There is no time for weeping," his father spoke, but Faramir heard the sound of unshed tears in Denethor’s voice. "The leg was broken. You must walk for a time," he said as he mounted Faramir's horse. "I will send someone with a mount." He turned, hit hard with his heels, and left Faramir by the dead carcass.

Once, Denethor looked back and saw Faramir kneeling by the fallen horse. He shook his head. 'Too soft,' he thought sadly, 'too soft. He will be Orc fodder before he is twenty.' His breath hitched as he forced himself to face forward.

Silver trumpets rang through the air as he neared the Great Gate. He heard shouts of recognition and hope from the soldiers lining the wall. It lifted his heart. A lone rider, with a horse in tow, passed through the gate and rode hard towards Denethor. Squinting, Denethor noted it was Berelach. Gratefully, he changed mounts. Berelach left the spent horse there, knowing others would retrieve it and the Steward's son. Berelach rode behind his lord till they reached the gate at the Sixth Circle. Ready hands helped them down and took their horses from them. The feel of the Citadel's marble under his feet filled Denethor with strength. He breathed a sigh of relief; he was where he belonged.

While they had ridden, Berelach could not share the news, but as soon as they dismounted, his aide launched into a full report. By the time they reached the Great Hall, Denethor knew everything that had happened these past two days. At the Hall, Denethor turned right and headed towards the tower.

"My Lord," Berelach called, "I have food prepared. Would you not stop for a moment?"

Denethor never acknowledge his aide’s words, just continued on into the tower and up the long stairs. If he had the strength, he would have taken the steps two at a time, but he found himself instead holding onto the rail the last few flights. Never had he felt such weariness. He was all but spent. Finally opening the door, he took a deep, steadying breath, and walked in.

It sat there, under the silken cover, waiting patiently for him. It knew he would come.

Before stepping towards it, Denethor turned to his left and looked out upon the Pelennor. He wondered if Boromir had reached Osgiliath yet. There was smoke coming from across the river, black and thick. It all but obscured the foothills of the Ephel Dúath. He had been proved right again; the battle was for Osgiliath.

Taking another moment, he turned, then took five paces to the upright support. Pulling the cloth away, he noted the gentle hum that had, of late, greeted him when he removed the covering. Swallowing, he put his hands to either side and closed his eyes. Immediately, they flew open as pain lanced between his eyes. He shuddered and forced his eyes closed again, using all his will to control this thing, this tool, this weapon. His breath calmed, the pain lessened, and Denethor knew the stone would do his bidding.

~*~

Faramir stood on the Pelennor and watched the fading forms of his brother, riding off in one direction, and his father, in the other. Gulping back tears, he waited, his thoughts flowing in a thousand different directions, only two with any purpose: one with Boromir, one with Denethor. As he watched, his father entered the gate as another rider left it, heading towards him. Faramir licked his lips in wonder at his own temerity, but he had made his decision.

The rider stopped and held out the reins of the extra horse. Faramir nodded, took the reins, mounted and turned the horse east. The rider, caught unawares, called after him, but Faramir had ridden fast and was far ahead. The groom sat, unsure as to what he should do. Finally, he turned towards the city. What would he tell the Steward?

~*~

Berelach stood waiting, expecting her to act, but she did not. She accepted his report of Denethor’s arrival and subsequent withdrawal to the tower with hardly a glance. He did not understand it at all. When he had first reported that the Steward daily went to the tower, she had reacted quite strongly. He would keep quiet. Once he was relieved, he would return to the bottom of the stairs and wait for his Steward.

The sun had long passed Mindolluin and long shadows crossed the fields before her. Indis shook herself and dismissed Denethor’s aide. The outline of the tower cut the Pelennor in two. Harsh dark lines sliced through the verdant land, turning it from a garden of Gondor into a wasteland. She shivered as she beheld it – never had it looked so barren, so desolate, even when the winter winds dried it out and the empty fields stood in stark contrast to their spring and autumn splendor.

Once darkness fell, she moved towards Merethrond. There would be no feast this evening. She would not even have to inform their guests. All knew, with the battle raging on two fronts, that none would celebrate the coming of age of the Twenty-Seventh Ruling Steward of Gondor. She spoke quietly with the cooks and servants, then left the dining hall. The food would not be wasted; what little the family needed would be sent to their private dining room and the remains would be taken to the First Circle and distributed to the poor. The goodwill earned would help ease the burden that would soon be placed upon the food supplies, if the battles went ill.

Indis wondered where the boys were. Faramir had probably retired to his own rooms, exhausted from the last two days activities. Boromir would surely go to his friends, take them to the nearest inn, and celebrate the honour bestowed upon him. It would be a short celebration. Boromir would know that, on the morrow, Denethor would send him back to Amon Dîn. She moved to their dining room, sat and waited for her loved ones to join her.
top

VII.

Boromir rode swiftly towards the Rammas, his heart in his throat as he watched thick black smoke rise before him. Shouts of battle assailed his ears. ‘Has the enemy crossed the river? Has he breached the city?’ A hand reached out to stop him at the gates of the great wall, but he shouted the password, batted the hand away, and continued on. Sorry he had to treat the guard such, he was only obeying orders after all, but a panic had welled in the new Captain-General’s heart and he deemed hurt feelings a small sacrifice for the needs of Gondor.

In only a short time, he stopped before Captain Guilin. He remembered little of this captain. They had gone through training at the same time, but the captain was four years ahead of him and they rarely spoke, except during matches, which most often the captain had won. Boromir saluted and Guilin looked startled. “Captain Boromir reporting. The Lord Steward has placed me under your command to do what you will.”

Boromir saw Guilin’s eyes look towards the horn. He had pushed it behind him when he dismounted, but the action of saluting brought the thing slightly forward. Boromir blushed. He wanted to be only a captain, at the moment; he didn’t need to be burdened with wondering if others were upset, confused, or angry at this new title. He had not earned it.

“We have just been joined by a battalion from Minas Tirith, under the command of Captain Gorlim. If you are to report to anyone, I would suggest it is to him.”

“Who sent…?” Boromir bit his lip. It was not his place to question orders. “Thank you, Captain. Where might I find Captain Gorlim?”

“He has set up command on the parapet of the ruined Dome of Stars”

Boromir saluted. He turned, discovered his horse had been taken to the stables, and ran towards the bridge.

Captain Gorlim was easily found. The man had to be as tall as Lord Forlong. His head stood above all the others on the parapet. Boromir strode forward, saluted and waited. Gorlim caught sight of the Horn also. Boromir wondered if he should hide it somewhere. ‘Nay! ‘Tis the Horn of Gondor and it has been given to me. I will learn how to accept whatever response I receive when its presence is noted.’ He stood a little taller.

“Have you missives from Lord Denethor?”

“Two, my Lord. You are to send updates every four hours to the Lord Steward. And, I am to report to whomever is in charge of Osgiliath and offer my services as Captain of Gondor.”

“Only Captain,” Gorlim’s slight sardonic smile put Boromir off.

He swallowed. “Only Captain.”

Gorlim stared at the young man before him. “Where were you stationed before this?”

“At Amon Dîn, my Lord.”

“Did you see action at Amon Dîn?”

Boromir was beginning to lose patience. Gorlim, if he had attended any Council meetings at all, which Boromir knew he had, was aware of the doings at Amon Dîn. Though the garrison was not in the thick of things as Cair Andros and Osgiliath were, they had seen their fair share of fighting. Orc and Easterling attacks were not unknown. But Boromir curbed his temper and answered evenly, “Not as much as I will see here, Captain, but I have been involved in a few skirmishes.”

‘So, the boy knows enough not to boast.’ Gorlim turned towards the eastern city. “I have lost five captains already this morning. You will, indeed, see much more action than you want to. Go to the barracks, find yourself a place to sleep, take some rest, and return to me in two hours.”

“Aye, my Lord.”

Boromir saluted and left.

Gorlim watched the Steward’s son leave. The boy looked spent. “Hold a moment!” he shouted as a disturbing thought assailed him. Boromir had not had the Horn the last time Gorlim had seen him. ‘When was that?” he wondered. ‘Ah yes, only a week ago, when the boy returned for a short leave. So the Steward had the ceremony?’ Gorlim was surprised. ‘It should have been done next year, if I remember Boromir’s age correctly. Why did Lord Denethor do this now?’ He shivered. ‘Did the steward know that the enemy was going to attack? Was Boromir’s ceremony done in preparation for this?’ All who served under the steward knew of his foresight. To have it shown to him so clearly was disconcerting.

As Boromir walked back, Gorlim asked, ”Where were you last?”

Boromir’s brow furrowed. “Amon Dîn, my Captain.”

“Nay!” he said testily. “Where were you last?”

“On Mindolluin with the Steward.”

“You are just come from there?”

“Aye, my Captain.”

“Go. And return to me in four hours,” he ordered, noting Boromir’s quizzical look, and turning from him. He had been afraid the lad had been out celebrating last night. But he had not time. No wonder he looked spent. They must have ridden as soon as they heard the alarm. He should have known the steward’s son would know his duty.

‘Now what am I going to do with the lad? The posts here are all dangerous. The steward knows that. Where am I to place him that he will not be killed within the first five minutes of his new position?’ Rubbing his eyes with the palms of his hand, the captain looked east again. Fire was spreading in the city. He could not keep Boromir from danger. He would have to be sent across the river. He sighed and moved towards his maps. Duilin stepped forward.

Boromir ran across the bridge and to the barracks. He had been here before many times. During training, Amlach brought him here. He wanted Denethor to feel the destruction wrought by the enemy; he wanted him to know what he was fighting for and against. As he turned towards the barracks, he passed the kitchen. His stomach was empty, had been for almost a day now. He walked in and was immediately greeted by no less than five shouts. Many of his friends from training were sitting around tables, resting while they had a moment. He sat next to Iorlas. Immediately a serving boy brought food and ale. Listening attentively to Iorlas’ assessment of the battle, Boromir ate quickly. When he was finished, he stood up, apologized for leaving so soon, and headed for the barracks. He found an empty cot and flung himself down, falling asleep immediately.

~*~

“Stay!” Faramir heard the shout and quickly pulled his horse up. “What is the password?”

Faramir shook his head. “I am on the steward’s business and must reach Osgiliath.”

“None pass unless I hear the password.” The guard said, still stung by this one’s brother’s insult.

Faramir sat, perplexed and angry. ‘What am I going to do? I do not have the password. I am not even supposed to be here.’ But he wanted to fight alongside Boromir. He wanted to be near his brother. His father’s words made it quite clear that Boromir might not return from this duty. ‘I cannot let him die alone…’ He shivered. “Please send a missive,” he said desperately, “to Lord Boromir in Osgiliath. He will vouch for me.” Quickly scrawling a short note, he gave it to the man. “Give this to Captain Boromir.”

The guard grumbled. ‘Who does this upstart think he is ordering me about? And him just a squire?’ But this squire was the steward’s son, and though the guard had the authority to block his progress without a password, he still best watch himself. “I will send someone as soon as I have a moment.”

Faramir dismounted and stood by the man, waiting.

The guard swore and called one of his company. A young boy came forward. “Go to the barracks at Osgiliath and give this message to Lord Boromir.”

The boy saluted and left.

The guard glared at Faramir and went back to standing in front of the gate.

~*~

Someone was shaking Boromir’s shoulder. ‘It cannot be time, yet,’ he groaned to himself. ‘It feels like I have only slept but moments.’

“Captain Boromir. I have a missive for you.”

Boromir sat up, took the missive, swore as he read it, and put on his boots. “Get me a horse!” he bellowed and strode out of the barracks. Within but a moment, a horse was brought to him. He looked for Captain Guilin and rode towards him. “Forgive me, Captain, I have an urgent message to meet the Steward’s messenger at the Rammas. I will return shortly.” Guilin nodded and Boromir rode off. He had not time to report his absence to his own commander. As brusque as Gorlim had been, he knew he was probably in for a reprimand when he returned. ‘Why is Faramir at the gate? Is something amiss at home? But Father would have sent a messenger, not Faramir. Is something wrong with Faramir?’ He swore again and rode west as fast as he could.

After an hour’s ride, he pulled up to the gate and saw his brother standing, waiting. The guard looked none to happy to see him again. Before doing anything else, he must apologize. “I was on urgent business for the steward,” he said to the guard, ”but that does not excuse my actions. I ask your forgiveness.”

The guard swallowed hard. “Of course, my Lord. “‘Twas your duty to obey the steward and mine to obey my captain.”

Boromir smiled. “Aye. Thank you.” He turned to Faramir, pulling him away from the guard and walking with him onto the Pelennor. “What are you doing here? What is wrong? Am I supposed to return to the city?”

Faramir bit his lip, keeping his eyes on his boots. “I needed to see you,” He whispered, suddenly very aware of what he had done.

Boromir stood, stunned. “What are you saying, little brother?”

The endearment made this even more difficult. “I was afraid for you… I heard what Father said… I wanted to be with you… I do not want you to… “

“What?” Boromir had to clench his hands to stop from screaming. None of this made sense.

“I did not want you to die alone.” He sobbed.

“Faramir!” The sight of Faramir in tears washed all his anger away. He stepped towards him and put his arm around Faramir's shoulder. “I will not die, if I have anything to say about it.”

Faramir hugged him. “I am sorry.”

“Do you have any idea of the trouble you are in? The trouble you have placed me in, Faramir?

The boy looked at him in puzzlement. “Faramir. You are a squire in the Army of Gondor. You have left your post. And you have made me leave mine. I do not know how we can extricate ourselves from this mess.”

Faramir swallowed hard. “I did not think. I only…”

“You were tired and hungry and frightened. Too many burdens for one as young as you.”

Faramir bit back a hot response as to his age. He had been wrong. There was no excuse for it. And now he would have to face his father. He shuddered slightly.

Boromir felt the shudder and understood the cause. “If I give you a missive as to my movements since I left him, say that I had asked you to join me, he will be appeased.”

“I cannot let you do that,” Faramir said heatedly. “It was my decision. I must take responsibility for it. I will not put you in disfavor with our father for my mistake.”

“You cannot just slip into the city without explaining this.”

“I know,” Faramir said quietly. “It would not be the honourable thing to do anyhow, whether I could manage it or no. I must tell him what I have done.

“Aye. Take this message with you; a missive from me might at least blunt some of Father’s anger.”

“Thank you, Boromir. I will miss you. Please,” and the boy looked at him with such pain that Boromir’s heart clenched. “Please take care.”

“I will, beloved brother. You too. It is getting late – you must ride hard and fast so they do not close the gate upon you.”

He hugged him warmly, helped him on his horse, and hit the flank hard. The horse rode off, dust scurrying under its hooves, as Boromir watched. His heart was heavy as he turned and mounted his own horse.
top

VIII.

As he listened to the bells in the city ringing the hour, Denethor thought of all the palantír had shown him. Across the river in Osgiliath, fire was everywhere; he saw the bodies of his men, his warriors, strewn about on the road, the Crossroads itself covered in blood and corpses. The blinds that were so painstakingly dug and hidden were all destroyed. He could see arms and legs sticking out in different angles, attesting to the swiftness of the enemy’s attack. At least six hundred men killed this one day in Ithilien.

He had turned north, once his stomach had settled, and saw the mass of Easterlings crossing the river, attacking the little island of Cair Andros, Gondor’s closest garrison to the Black Gate. Rangers from Henneth Annûn had swelled the ranks of the fortress, but his men were still hard-pressed to stop the advance.

He had also seen Indis’ handiwork. His sister was a marvel. The troops she had sent were the best he had, short of his own regiment, the Tower Guard. He could see their steady thrust against the enemy: Orc fell back in droves from Osgiliath, returning to the mountains from whence they had spewed forth; Easterlings, struggling to keep their retreat fairly orderly, crossed the river, heading east. Grateful, as always, that he had continued to include Indis in the daily meetings with his captains, he smiled. She was a marvel indeed. The captains all knew she spoke in Denethor’s name and had obeyed her completely. ‘If she were a man,’ the thought crossed his mind, ‘ she would be Steward.’ His eyebrow lifted at the thought. ‘ And a good one, too!’

His eyes burnt from contact with the stone and he knew he would not be able to stand any time soon. As he had looked south, towards Pelargir, a horror had overtaken him and he had collapsed. When he came to, he had not the strength to bend the stone to his purpose. So he sat and waited. He must discover the cause of his alarm. Slowly, strength came back to him. ‘It is time; I am rested.’

The stone obeyed him. He espied Faramir on the Pelennor, close to the Great Gate. ‘What is he doing there? He should have returned hours ago. Had no one sent a mount for him?’ He paused, remembering seeing a groom leading a horse out of the gate as he himself had entered the city. ‘Why is Faramir there?’

~*~

Boromir rode back to Osgiliath, trying to doze on the way. By the time he returned, he would have to report for duty. He was still amazed and confused by Faramir’s actions. ‘What was the boy thinking? Was he purposefully trying to anger their father?’ He wished he could somehow have ridden home with Faramir, stood next to him when his brother faced Denethor. He could not. It had seriously hurt him to see the pain in Faramir’s eyes. ‘Why would he ever think I would let myself get killed,” he chuckled sourly. ‘I do not intend to die on my first day as Captain-General.’ Both boys knew, however, it was a possibility. ‘More than a possibility,’ Boromir thought as he remembered the scene that day before him at the Dome of the Stars. The fresh troops from Minas Tirith were indeed pushing the enemy back, but the carnage that lay before him was terrible to behold. ‘Of course, I did not expect being reprimanded my first day either – yet, that is what will happen, once I return.’ He shook his head. There was no understanding his brother, at times.

He stopped at the kitchen once more as a groom took his horse, stuffed his pockets with cheese and bread, and filled a water skin before walking to the smithy. He left his sword and his dirk for sharpening, then walked towards the river. Iorlas was standing with a group of men, looking down. “‘Tis an ugly sight, my Lord.”

There had not been much rain this summer; the river flowed less swiftly than was its norm. As Boromir looked down its high banks, he gasped. At least a hundred swollen bodies covered it, most were men of Gondor. Their faces were unrecognizable, damage from the water and the hot sun disfiguring them, making them look like Orc. But the black livery they wore, with the White Tree on it, marked them as Gondor’s sons. He heard men weeping around him. Boromir wished he had not eaten. The slashed faces, missing limbs and grotesque bodies were more than he could bear. Trying to keep some measure of dignity, he nodded to Iorlas, walked away, and found a broken down wall to hide behind; he promptly lost his dinner.

Hearing the bells over his own retching, he realized he was now late in reporting back. Wiping his hand over his mouth and spitting trying to rid it of the foul taste, he ran to the smithy, retrieved his weapons, threw a thank you and coin at the man, and ran to the parapet. Gorlim, surrounded by his captains, pointed to a map. He noticed Boromir and motioned him forward. Quietly, but still loud enough for the men around him to hear, he said, “ When I tell my captains to return at a certain time, I expect them to obey me.” He didn’t wait for Boromir to reply, just continued with his instructions.

Boromir tried to listen attentively, but his embarrassment was great. When Gorlim finished, he dismissed his men. Boromir, walking away, was stopped by his captain’s call. “Boromir.” He turned and walked back, his face ablaze.

“I understand,” Gorlim said quietly, “that you disobeyed my orders to rest and even left the garrison?”

Boromir stood straighter. “Aye, Captain. Though I did rest some. I was taken away by a message from Minas Tirith.”

“And what did Lord Denethor’s missive say?”

Boromir swiped his tongue across his lip, then, bit it. “‘Twas not from the steward, my Captain, but a message for me.”

“A personal message?” Gorlim queried.

“Aye, my Lord,” Boromir said, miserably.

“So, you rest for half an hour, leave the garrison, abuse a horse in a quick ride to the Rammas, receive a personal message, ride back again resulting in a horse that will be useless for many hours till it is rested from the pace you set, and still report late? Is this normal for a captain of Gondor, or only for the steward’s son?”

The bite and scorn in his captain’s voice was almost as harsh as Denethor’s. ‘Which,’ Boromir thought tiredly, ‘was no surprise. Did not Gorlim report directly to Denethor?’ The captain had probably heard the same tone of voice thrown at him over the years. Boromir almost felt sorry for the man, but his shame was too great.

“It will not happen again, Captain,” was all Boromir could say.

Gorlim waved him away and now Boromir felt thoroughly chastised. He walked back across the bridge, found his new lieutenant and his men, and ordered them across the bridge, swearing at himself the entire time.

They encountered a small band of Orc almost immediately after entering the land just east of Osgiliath. Like any good captain, Boromir had sent scouts ahead, though the latest reports had said the Orc had been pushed back to the Crossroads. Nevertheless, the reports were wrong, woefully wrong; Boromir swore as his scouts sent the signal that the enemy was near. He quickly ordered his men into the underbrush next to the road, half on one side and half on the other. The horses were taken away by handlers and hidden. He wished he had more, but only three companies had been given to him. Silent, they watched and waited. Not a breath was sounded by any of the two hundred and ten under Boromir’s care. He smiled. This group seemed to be well disciplined. He must get to know more of them as quickly as possible. He disliked going into battle with no idea of his men’s strengths or weaknesses.

At last the Orc appeared, a small band it seemed, but that could be a ruse. He waited till the Orc passed his men, though he could feel his lieutenant squirming in frustration. His scouts came up behind them. One whispered to him, “That is all, Captain Boromir. None others follow.” With that news, Boromir signaled for the men to crawl through the scrub towards the enemy. There were at least two hundred Orc, but they were obviously battle-weary. There was no sign of discipline, nor vigilance. Boromir watched and waited. The men reached the sides of the road where the Orc were and Boromir gave the signal. All three companies exploded from the brush, screaming their hatred of Orc and brandishing their weapons. It was a quick battle, lasting only nigh unto an hour. Boromir wiped his blade with his tunic and smiled. His men were good and competent. And valiant. He was most pleased. If he were nearer an outpost, he would have called for ale. As it was, he called for rest.

Arthad moved closer. “My Lord Boromir? I wish to ask your pardon for my lack of patience.”

Boromir smiled at his lieutenant. “When you find your patience, I would most enjoy having some! I wanted so badly to jump out and kill them all as soon as the first appeared. But I have learnt that Orc sometimes travel in small packs far enough apart to be missed by scouts, but near enough to help each other in battle. I am glad that was not the case today. Call the men together. I would congratulate them!”

When his troops were assembled about him, Boromir smiled. “You did well today. I am most pleased by your skill with your weapons. But I am more pleased with your obedience. It was of the utmost importance that we remain still, until I had my last report. You did admirably. Let us continue that on the morrow.” He turned to his lieutenant. “You may dismiss them.”

Boromir sat near the road in an abandoned blind. The place reeked of Orc, but it was dry. The walls kept the night air away. They would not have a fire tonight. Wrapping himself in his cloak, he waited for his lieutenant’s return. A whisper announced his arrival.

“Come and sit with me. I did not wish to stop for the night. The faster we travel, the more Orc we will kill. But I deem it unwise to sally forth in the dark. Orc have too much of an advantage as it is. We do not need to give them more. At first light, we will move towards Emyn Arnen. Our orders are to secure that area and wait for reinforcements. Are you familiar with Ithilien?”

“I am, Captain Boromir. I have been a lieutenant with the battalion of West Osgiliath for the last five years.”

“Good!” Boromir slapped the man on the back and nearly upended him. “I too know the land well. It is my ancestral home.”

~*~

He rode in the forefront as they entered the forest of Emyn Arnen. By now it was light. However, he could sense his men were nervous. He smiled. They probably did not trust him yet. He would not trust himself either. Most must have known this was his first command. To go into battle at such a time without experience must seem like folly. He noted Arthad speaking with some of the men as they broke their fast this morning. He had caught them looking at him; they had turned as soon as they saw him look at them. He knew what they were discussing. Arthad, he felt confident, would tell the men to trust him. He already knew he had Arthad’s trust. One little battle can either make or break a new captain. He felt their battle last night had convinced his lieutenant that their new captain would not get them all killed, at least not for a day or two. He chuckled to himself.

They were on the main road almost immediately after his men had broken their fast. They rode quietly east. He would not go as far as the Crossroads; he would turn south before they reached it.

As they entered the forest of Emyn Arnen, Boromir remembered a story his father had told him about a battle he had fought here years ago. His aunt, Indis, along with the Lady Listöwel, and Morwen Steelsheen, before she became Queen of Rohan, had also fought in the battle. Indis had brought him here many years ago, shown him the sight, and took him to the graveyard of the House of Húrin. He marveled again at the thought of these women fighting Orc. His father, once he had discovered Indis had secretly been in training, had encouraged her. She still came to the training grounds, twice a week, to keep her arm strong. Boromir smiled; she had even challenged him once, when he was eleven. He rubbed his shoulder, remembering the bruise he had received. He had thought, in his naiveté, that he would beat her soundly. It had turned out the other way round.

He ordered a stop. Arthad moved his horse closer. “We will wait for the scouts to return. I will not press further without their report. Tell the men to break for nuncheon. I want six pickets set – not four.”

As Arthad saluted and moved off to carry out his captain’s orders, shouts were heard from the southern edge of the forest. The men, those who had already sat, jumped to their feet, others drew their weapons and waited. Boromir called order. Four scouts returned with a tale of a massive army coming towards them. They were still not discovered. They had the element of surprise on their side. There was no time for strategy. Boromir ordered all four scouts back to Osgiliath requesting reinforcements. He could not wait though; he would have to attack, hope that surprise would give him the upper hand, and send each company forward, separated by only sixty yards. He did not know the men; he was not sure who commanded which company, nor their capabilities. He turned towards Arthad.

“Who is the strongest lieutenant?”

“Ragnor, my Lord. He has the most experience. He is with the Second Company.”

“Then order him to me, along with the others.”

Arthad’s face was strained, but he quickly obeyed. When his lieutenants stood around him, Denethor said, “We will try to drive a wedge through the enemy; the forest will give us some cover. There numbers are greater than ours. We will drive the wedge of men directly towards them. The Third Company will be the western edge, the First along the east, and Ragnor will command the Second – they will be our point. As they are forced to the outside, their flank on either side will be vulnerable. Have your strongest, bravest men at the head of each company. You know your men,” he looked long at those around him, “use them wisely."

Arthad dismissed them. “Ragnor,” Denethor called.

“Aye, my Lord?”

“I will ride with you. I have some experience with Orc, but none with Southrons. I would hope you can teach me.”

Ragnor smiled broadly. “I have fought them since I was your age, my Lord, and I still live.”

Boromir laughed. “Aye. You do. I will watch and learn.”

“Watch not too long, my Captain, else I receive a lance in my heart,” the man smiled.

“I will ride beside you, watching from the corner of my eye,” Denethor smiled back.

“I hope that eye functions well.”

Boromir laughed again and moved forward. His heart was in his throat, his skin shone from the perspiration upon it, and his hand shook slightly. ‘This is going to be an interesting battle,’ he thought and gave the command to move.
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IX.

Denethor pulled himself away and stretched his mind. He had been looking south when the horror had taken him. There it was! A quick breath was all he could take as he watched the army move north. Southrons! There were no reports of such an army marching in Ithilien. They had already reached Emyn Arnen. He was too late to warn his men! He saw Gondor’s companies taking their rest. The enemy would not remain hidden long. His men could deal with them, if reinforcements were sent quickly, of that he was certain. ‘Wait!’ He saw knights of Gondor running towards the Southrons. A dark shape, large beyond belief, followed the enemy. Denethor gasped, gulped and watched spellbound. He had only seen one before. He tore his gaze from the great beast. Who was Gondor’s Captain? He strained further, crying aloud when his eyes lit on the man in front. It was Boromir!

Suddenly, the stone went black. Denethor screamed and clutched it tighter. Nothing showed; nothing stirred in its depths. He cast it down upon its stand and ran to the window. The sun shone brightly; the air seemed clear and clean. The fires in Osgiliath had burned down and there was almost no smoke. Yet danger was coming towards his son, his first-born! He ran back to the palantír and shook it, screaming his frustration. “Boromir! Boromir!” But nothing appeared, only eternal blackness.

He ran down the steps, almost tripping in his fear. Berelach caught him as he fell out the doorway. “Send a signal,” he screamed, “wind the horns, Osgiliath must be warned. The battle goes ill. Haradrim come in full force with a great beast.”

Berelach, knowing never to question his steward, ran towards the Citadel. Men from the Third Company had seen him and joined him. The warning signal was sounded and the trumpeter on the Citadel’s tower blew his notes of warning. Other horns took up the call and soon the air was filled with the strident call for help. Soldiers ran into the Courtyard, looking about in dismay.

~*~

Suddenly, the enemy appeared. Boromir shouted the order for attack and Gondor’s finest surged forth, Ragnor and he riding at the front of the wedge. There was no time to confirm his troops did as he commanded. The enemy did not falter, at first, and Boromir’s heart tightened. Then, slowly, he noted the wedge was severing the army before him. Soon, soon he prayed to the Valar, more men of Gondor would come forth and attack those his troops pushed to the side. It was the only thing that gave him hope. There must be warriors near; there must be!

He fought furiously and was gratified to see Ragnor doing the same. The older man had an easy air about him and it filled Boromir with confidence. They swung their swords in a measured cadence. Boromir first; then Ragnor. Boromir was surprised at the ease with which he fought at this man’s side. Southrons have a way of fighting; scorn emanated from them, as if they were the better warriors. It drove Boromir mad at the thought, but Ragnor fought as if he were on a jaunt to the river. Boromir renewed his attack upon another snarling face before him. Slicing feverishly, he slew one after another.

A moment’s break. He quickly gulped and wiped his sword clean. His sword. He looked down upon it in amaze. Had he not just the day before received this sword from his father. His heart lifted. He was Captain-General of Gondor. He would not lose this battle. With a shout, he lunged forward again, taking out two foes with ease. His men, looking with surprise and not a little delight, caught his fervor and passion. They joined his screams with their own and rallied again. “We will win this battle,” Boromir shouted above the din of clashing swords, creaking leather, and the moans of the wounded and dying.

Horns sounded from far away; then others, probably from Osgiliath joined them. Boromir knew they were warning horns telling the men of Gondor that a battle was being lost and help was needed forthwith. Someone, at last, had realized that Ithilien’s southern lands were under attack. His men shouted with renewed hope! He smiled as he hewed down another of the horde before him. Reinforcements would be coming soon. Then, he heard it – a great crashing in the trees, a bellowing sound, thudding and bumping; cheers came from the Southrons.

“Ware! Ware!” cried Boromir to his men. “May the Valar turn him aside! It is one of the beasts of the Haradrim!”

Boromir’s horse lifted its front legs and spilled his rider. Its eyes were white with fear. Trying to grab the reins while pushing himself up from the ground, he had left himself open. A smiling, sun-darkened face brought a blade down. Boromir flinched, but Ragnor caught the blade with his own and turned it aside. He had also lost his horse when the beast roared, but was able to stand quickly. Boromir had not the time to even thank the man as another and another came at him; the enemy renewed by the charge of their newest weapon.

Ragnor and he continued, shouting encouragement to the men, who looked about to flee at the sight before them. The animal, if one could call a towering black hill an animal, became frightened by the horses’ screams and the battle sounds. It pulled up, front legs, rather trees, flailing and knocking off men from its back. Boromir now saw that there was some kind of cart or… It was a war-tower! A war tower on top of the beast! But the creature was shaking and running; the tower and the men in it were being thrashed from side to side. Finally, the whole aperture fell over, clinging to the underside of the beast by straps. Men fell everywhere and were quickly stomped in the beast’s fear.

~*~

Faramir heard the horns call as soon as he passed the Great Gate. A groom ran to him as he pulled into the Ranger’s headquarters on the first level. He dismounted and grabbed another saddled horse, one that stood ready for an errand-rider. The captain of the company shouted for him to leave the horse, but Faramir ignored him, jumped on the horse and turned its head towards the next gate. He knew what the horns were saying, a battle was gone ill; Boromir was in Osgiliath; therefore, knowing Boromir’s penchant for being in the thick of things, that meant that Boromir was in the battle. He pushed the horse forward while the captain screamed to at least slow down if for naught but the horse’s sake. But Faramir never heard, his heart in his throat and tears streaming down his eyes.

“You promised!” he whispered through clenched teeth. “You promised you wouldn’t be killed! You promised!” he kept chanting as he forced the horse faster and faster up the levels. His teeth chattered as he tried to force himself to some sort of calm. Swiping tears from his eyes, he slowed the horse. ‘‘Tis not the horse’s fault that Boromir is in trouble.’ He brought the horse to a walk. He was only on the third level. Turning the horse towards one of the parapets overlooking the Pelennor, he stopped and looked out. Eastern Osgiliath was on fire. Boromir was stationed in Western Osgiliath. Perhaps he was not in the battle after all. Perhaps Faramir had panicked for naught. He shook his head. ‘Nay. Boromir would not stay back if a battle were being waged. Father must know where he is.' He turned the horse’s head to the fourth gate and passed through.

The citadel itself and all the grounds around it were full of people, mostly warriors watching what they could from the parapet. Faramir had left his mount at the gate and walked through the tunnel. As he emerged, men caught sight of him and greeted him. “Your father awaits you,” one of them said. “He is in the Great Hall.”

Faramir nodded and went on. Pushing open the doors, he stepped into quiet. His ears hurt from the difference of the shouts and moans of the parapet and the dark still of this hall. The chamberlain greeted him and ushered him forward. Halfway down the hall, the man bowed and quietly left. Faramir continued towards the Steward’s Chair. Indis sat at his father’s feet, silently stroking his hand. The sight sent chills down Faramir’s back.

Indis saw him first, rose to greet him, and was held back by Denethor’s hand. “Long has your return been, my son,” Denethor said quietly, not looking up. “You would have my concern for your brother be o’ershadowed by concern for you?”

Faramir sucked in his breath. “That was not my intent, Father. I know nothing of Boromir’s state.”

“You were with him last?”

“Aye, Father. I rode to the Causeway Fort to speak with him once before he began his assignment.”

“I told you to return here, to me. I did not give you leave to follow him.”

Faramir swallowed. “I was wrong, Father. I… I was concerned and let sentiment guide me.”

At that Denethor lifted his face and looked full upon his youngest. The tear-streaked face told more than his son’s words.

“Boromir is in the midst of a desperate battle. I know not if he will survive. A mûmak, one of the beasts of Harad, ventures into Ithilien. Your brother is in the forefront of those assigned to stop it and the army it is with.”

Faramir stared in astonishment. “Did you order him there?”

“I did not. But if I had known, I would have. Do I not trust your brother? Do I not trust his leadership, his skill as a warrior?”

Faramir swallowed again. “I… He would be proud to know you think that highly of him, Father.”

They stayed thus for a long while. At last, Indis spoke. “Brother, you and your son need food. I will order the kitchen…”

“My son does not have food in the midst of battle, neither will Faramir and I. We will wait until Boromir eats; then we will eat.”

~*~

The men of Gondor were not spared. Boromir looked on in horror as man after man, trying to escape, were crushed by those mammoth feet. He screamed retreat and pushed his men before him. They ran in disarray, each trying to avoid the terrible beast before them. The Southrons were running also, all sense of battle driven from them as they tried to escape their own weapon. Suddenly, arrows flew through the air from the east. Bowmen, shooting feverishly, turned the great beast, though their arrows bounced off its hide. But it was enough. The creature fled. The Southrons, seeing that they were beleaguered by a greater host than ever, quickly turned, calling retreat themselves, and fled further into the forest. The archers followed.

Boromir called a halt and gathered his men about him. Quickly, his lieutenants called off the role. Boromir’s face blanched as he heard silence too many times. At last, Arthad stepped forward.

“We have twenty-seven men left standing, my Lord. There are another thirty-two wounded.”

Boromir stood, silent, hands at his side, his sword feeling heavy and cold. Of the three companies, he had lost one hundred and fifty-one men! The horn pushed against him. He should have winded it. What had been wrong with him? He could have saved his men if he had called for help.

“A valiant effort, my Lord,” Ragnor put his hand on Boromir’s shoulder. “Our men did themselves proud.”

Boromir gulped and looked at his lieutenant. He should be praising his men, not berating himself with futile questions. He turned towards them and his heart flinched as he saw the haunted eyes before him.

“Ragnor speaks well. I have never seen such bravery. You are doughty men and true. Gondor will sing your praises tonight! Let us turn towards Osgiliath and rest.” The men shouted with joy at the praises of their captain. “Arthad,” he turned and smiled. “I am glad to see you alive. You did well!”

His lieutenant smiled. “I am glad to be alive myself! I have never seen such a beast before. What was it?”

“We will talk once I report to Captain Gorlim. Order the men back to Osgiliath. Meet me in the dining hall.”

Arthad saluted, turned and began assembling his detail.

Ragnor stepped forward. “I will see to the wounded.”

“Aye. We are too few and too haggard to bury our dead. Others will have to see to that unhappy duty.”


I borrowed Damrod’s very words from TTT at the attack of the mûmak and gave them to his captain –I’m sure he’ll forgive me. ‘Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbits.’
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X.

The horns sounded and Denethor lifted his face towards the front of the Hall – and waited. At last, a soldier bounded through the doors. Quickly speaking with the chamberlain, he saluted and left. The chamberlain hurried forward.

“My Lord Steward. There is good news from Osgiliath. The Southrons have been vanquished.”

“My son?”

The chamberlain looked in surprise. “Boromir, my Lord? I know nothing of Boromir. There has been no missive, just the call of the trumpet with news that the battle has been won.”

“Send an errand-rider to me immediately.” The man bowed and quickly left.

“Faramir,” he looked up in surprise. “Have you been standing this entire time?”

“It is nothing, Father. I wanted to be with you when news reached your ears.”

Aides came in with torches to light the hall; the sun was setting and the natural dimness of the Great Hall was deepened by the sun’s decline. When a torch was lit near to the Steward’s Chair, Faramir gasped. “Father!” He stepped forward but quickly stopped at Denethor’s command. “Come no closer. There is no need. I am well. You may wait here until the rider comes from Osgiliath, then you will return to your duties as squire. I cannot keep you from punishment. You deserted your post, Faramir. You were not given this time off. Your penalty will probably be harsh. Was it worth it?” The last words were whispered.

“What do you think, Father?” Faramir said quietly. “Would you have left Boromir with no word of farewell?”

The errand-rider strode into the hall. Bowing low, he waited.

“Scribe!” Denethor shouted. One came running forward with quill and parchment. “Take this missive to Captain Gorlim.” The scribe sat on the marble steps, ready.

“Captain Gorlim, great news of the battle won at Osgiliath this day. You and your men are to be commended. As soon as you are able, for I understand your pressing needs, send this rider back with a full report. If he should come to you after you have sent a report, then send…” Denethor stood and moved down the stairs. Walking towards one of the tall windows, he placed his hand on the sill and drew in a sharp breath. ‘I cannot ask if my son lives,’ he swallowed in grief and torment. ‘I cannot ask anything about him. He is a soldier, warrior of Gondor, the same as the other men there. How can I ask of him when I do not ask of others?’ He held back a sob. ‘So much power; so little power. My son. My son.’ He clenched his sword, drew in a breath and walked back towards the scribe. “Just leave it end with a full report.” He took the missive, signed it, and gave it to the errand-rider. “Go, and quickly. I expect your return before morning.”

The man bowed and left.

Denethor sat, silent, but Indis spoke. “It is late. The rider will not return this night. I cannot see you sitting here, without food or rest, until that time comes. You know Boromir is well. If he had been killed, the horns would have announced the news. They did not.” She motioned and the chamberlain came forward. After she ordered their repast, the man departed.

Denethor sighed. “You do not know for certain…”

“Your men are trained well, brother. They would have sounded the horn. He is alive and is probably eating even as we speak.”

~*~

“Captain Boromir,” Gorlim stood as Boromir entered the room. “I have heard tales of your prowess on the battlefield and your defeat of a mûmak. How often does that happen?” He smiled broadly. “I have never even seen one and you have defeated one!”

“I did naught, my Lord. In fact, I have lost too many men. I should have winded my own horn, asked for help, but I mistakenly thought we could contain them until reinforcements came. I lost too many men,” he again reiterated miserably.

“Your horn would not have called men faster than those who finally arrived. The bowmen were the nearest. Your battle could be heard all the way to the Crossroads and the bellowing of the great beast could be heard clear to the river. You did well. You lost many men, but they fought and died bravely. I was hard on you earlier today. I thought you might consider yourself above your men; however, I have heard only good reports about your behavior. Ragnor speaks highly of you and I value that man’s opinion. How long did your fa-- did you plan on staying here? What were your orders?”

“The only order I received was to come to Osgiliath and help in this time of crisis, though I have been appointed Captain of the garrison at Eilenach.”

“Eilenach. I was stationed there once myself. A lovely land, close to the mountains, but not close enough to freeze. Once in awhile, the Horse Lords stop and tell tales with the men there. It can be pleasant.”

Boromir’s cheeks burned. “I was not made captain to sit about and listen to horsemen’s tales,” he fairly blustered.

“I did not mean that, Captain. There is no garrison left in all of Gondor that is always pleasant.” The Captain’s tone was harsh. “I have said you appointed yourself well. I thank the Steward for sending you to us. Now, go and take care of your men and yourself. You will have one day’s rest, then you will be sent out on patrol again.”

Boromir bowed stiffly and left. ‘He thinks I am to captain Eilenach to keep me from battle, to protect me.” He shook in fury. ‘Why would father send me here, then, if I were to be protected?’ He was still livid when he entered the dining hall. Arthad waved to him and Boromir calmed himself. Smiling, he waved back, walked through the crowd of men in the hall, patting some on the back and shouting words of praise to others. The air was festive. They men were glad they were alive; tales of the battle with the mûmak were growing greater and greater in deed. Ragnor strode forward and put his hand on Boromir’s shoulder, forcing him to sit. He waved for food and ale to be brought to his table. Then, he sat next to him.

“Were you permanently stationed here, my Lord?”

“Nay. Only for the present crisis, Ragnor. I am to go to Eilenach, when the Steward says it is time.”

“Then, I would ask to go with you?”

“You would leave the joys of Osgiliath?” Boromir smiled.

“I would be with you to guard your back, my Lord. Seems to me you have not quite learned to do that by yourself.”

Boromir smiled. “I did not thank you, did I, for saving my life?”

“I noted another three or four times during that very same battle, that you saved mine. There is not cause for thanks. All in the line of duty.” The man smiled and drank his ale. “But I am surprised at your ease in battle.”

“I was not at ease. I was watching you. You were at ease. I followed your lead.”

“Then,” and Ragnor laughed uproariously, “Neither of us led today!”

Boromir smiled and drank. With men like Ragnor, he enjoyed being a Captain of Gondor.

“One question, my Lord.”

“Go ahead, Arthad.”

“You wear the Horn of Gondor. I was told that honour is only for the Captain-General of Gondor. Am I misinformed.”

Boromir sat still for a moment. “You are not misinformed. The title was given yesterday, or the day before; I am so tired I do not remember. It is only a title, Arthad, Ragnor. I command no one but the little garrison of Eilenach. And that at the Steward’s will.”

“If that is what you wish known, then we will abide by that. It is good, though, to know that the Steward places such trust in you.”

Boromir smiled tiredly. “Do not go there, my young friend. The Steward’s trust is difficult to gain. I have not, as of yet. Now, I must to bed before I fall. I cannot remember the last time I slept. Tell the men to rest also. We have another day before we are on patrol again.”

He rose, was greeted by shouts of approval, smiled at his men, and left the hall. His heart fairly burst with pride at the honour shown him. They were doughty men and he was their captain and life was good.

~*~

“What is wrong with Father, Amma?”

Denethor had insisted Faramir return to his barracks. Indis had promised Faramir she would send for him as soon as the errand-rider returned. As she accompanied him to the Sixth Circle, she held Faramir’s arm. “What do you mean?”

“You know what I mean. He looks nigh unto eighty years old. He is not even seventy. What has happened since yesterday?”

Indis did not reply.

“Amma. In one day he has changed. His hair is graying at the temple and lines run across his forehead. He did not have them yesterday. Worry for Boromir could not cause this.”

He waited. “You will not say?” he finally asked.

“I will not. You may ask your father, but I doubt he will tell you. He does what he can for Gondor, Faramir. All that he can.”

“Even unto death, Amma?”

“You know that answer even better than I, Faramir. Even unto death, yours, mine, Boromir’s, his own…” She started to cry and he stopped.

“Forgive me, Amma. I understand that the Steward and his family live and die for Gondor, but I cannot sit and watch him like this.”

“There is naught you can do. Faramir, you must obey him, in all things, you must learn to be a warrior like Boromir is, he needs you strong, he needs your approval-"

“Mine?”

“Yours. He values you, Faramir. His foresight gives him cause for fear and he would… Every man of Gondor must prepare for the worst. He sees great battles before us and too few men for Gondor. He is torn between his love for you and his duty and passion for Gondor. Do not make him chose between you.”

“I will not, Amma. I will obey him. I promise.”