Ten Thousand Years will not Suffice

by Agape4Rivendell

51  52  53  54  55  56 
Parts 51 - 56

25. 
Third Age - 3017 


51.

Boromir stayed at Cair Andros for another fortnight. The captains, rare that they were able to meet with their Captain-General for more than a few hours or a day at most, were grateful for the opportunity to spend time with him. Maps were brought out and updated, rosters were discussed, though the filling of them depended entirely upon Faramir’s attempts to wrangle more men from the reluctant lords of the southern fiefdoms, and battle strategies were discussed. In between, they practiced new techniques that they found had helped them in this last battle. Always, the enemy had created some new armor; many lives were lost until someone could determine how to overcome it.

When it became nigh unto time to leave, Boromir found himself strangely reluctant. Egalmoth lit the brazier in Boromir’s tent and proceeded to make his morning tea. Boromir dunked his hands in the washbasin and quickly pulled them out again, sputtering in shock. “It is freezing! Did you not heat it?”

“I was watching over your tea.”

“Of course you were.” Boromir stayed his tongue. “Would you heat some water so that I may at least lave my face?”

“Right away. Here, I brought this from the captain’s quarters.” He moved forward with a pot of boiling water, tripped on the main post of the tent, and fell forward. Boromir just missed being severely scalded by stepping off to the side.

Just then, Beregond entered the tent. The smile froze on his face as he looked from one man to the other. Boromir’s look told Beregond that his Captain-General was very close to cutting off his aide’s hands. “I beg your pardon, Captain Boromir. I have some things I wished to discuss with you regarding Amon Dîn. Might I have a moment?”

“Yes.” He waved for Egalmoth to leave them. Swearing under his breath, he went to the brazier. The lad had failed to light the charcoal and the brazier was cold.

“Let me, Captain.” Beregond expertly lit the charcoal and used some sticks from a fa ggot nearby to complete the task. Within a moment, the fire filled the tent with warmth. “I will return in a moment.”

Boromir sank back onto his cot. ‘When I return, Míriel will be there and I will have to spend time with her.’ His thoughts were interrupted as Beregond brought in a pot filled with hot water.

“I decided to borrow some from the men’s fire. They were glad to share it with you.” He smiled. “It is an honor being here with you and they are most grateful.”

“I owe them much. They are good and stalwart men. I trust them. I wonder how many other captains can walk into battle with the knowledge that their men stand behind them, ready and able to do their part?” He turned at the groan from Beregond. “Is something amiss?”

“I do not know if I can do this. Being a lieutenant was not difficult, but being a captain?” He swallowed hard.

“You did well during the battle. Your men trusted and followed you.”

“They only did so because they are good men, as you have stated. They would have followed a… a mûmak.”

Boromir laughed roundly. “But one has to watch where one walks when following a mûmak!”

Beregond joined in Boromir’s laughter, then sobered. “I do not think I should have been promoted.”

“Beregond. Sit. Please.”

“I am sorry, Captain. All my life I have spent as a lowly soldier. I was not pleased when I was raised to lieutenant last year. I know Gondor needs captains, but there are so many others who are better equipped to carry that load.”

“Like Egalmoth?” Boromir grimaced.

“I am not ungrateful; I just do not feel I am what Gondor needs. Demote me. Let me be your aide. I beg of you. That is work I am suited for.”

“Beregond, your father has been a great captain for Gondor. As his son, it is only right that you continue your family’s proud tradition. I have every faith in you, as does my father. Else, he would not have promoted you. I cannot do this.”

Beregond stood up. “I will lead the men to death! Do you not understand this? I have neither the wit nor the courage to do what Gondor asks of me. If you persist, if you do not demote me, then I must do something to earn demotion. Disobey an order, defame the Steward, something!”

Boromir stood in alarm and grasped the man’s arms. “You risk hanging,” he hissed, “and disgrace for your family.”

“Boromir, if I make a mistake, if I make a wrong decision, I can lose a whole regiment.”

“Sit,” Boromir motioned and sat himself. “I know the fear you speak of. It is ever with me. I have lost more men than I can remember. But Beregond, Gondor desperately needs good captains.”

“I am not one, Boromir! In the month’s that I have served as captain, I have discovered that failing.” The man fell to his knees. “Please. Take me as your aide. What greater service is there for a soldier than to care for his captain?”

Tears filled Boromir’s eyes, as he finally understood. “You would do this for me?” When he had finally caught his breath, he said, “Egalmoth is not that bad. I cannot let you do this. Please, do not ask again.”

Beregond stood, shoulders sagged. “Let me at least help you prepare for your journey. Your aide is not about, again.”

Boromir nodded, his mind still awhirl at the level of loyalty and love he felt from Beregond.

The soldier began packing, then took Boromir’s sword from its sheath.

Boromir groaned. “Yester eve, I asked Egalmoth to take it to the smithy so that it would be sharpened for my ride home. I see he did not.”

“I would have,” Beregond whispered.

“If I demote you, what excuse do I use that would shame you and your family the least?”

Beregond looked up, hope plain upon his face. “Dereliction?”

“All know you are as far from dereliction as Anor from Ithil!”

“From my men then. I have been with you all morning. It was my duty to be with them, help them prepare for the journey back to Amon Dîn.”

Boromir smiled warmly. He placed his hands on Beregond’s shoulders. “You do not have to do this. It will remain on your record.”

“Have I not pledged all for Gondor? Shame is naught if I can serve you. I will explain a little to my father. He will understand and agree. My Captain, do it now, here in the field, then I will serve you till I die.”

“Who do I appoint in your place as Captain of Amon Dîn?”

“Hirgon. I served with him at the Causeway. He is ready. Or Galdor. He serves here at Cair Andros under Captain Hador. He could be sent today! Ask Hador what he thinks.”

“Very well, But I will have you know I do this under duress. If not for the need of a sharp sword…” He smiled and hugged Beregond. “Welcome, Aide. Now, send for Captain Hador. I hope he does not object too strenuously.”

Beregond poured Boromir another cup of tea, saluted, and left the tent singing a bawdy tavern tune.

Boromir’s brow furrowed as Egalmoth entered.

“Here is your hot water, Captain.”

Boromir kept his face still. “Thank you, Egalmoth. I have some good news for you.”

~*~

The ride to Pelargir lasted overlong, in Damrod’s estimation. They stopped at every town, hamlet, village, and settlement that happened to be within ten leagues of the road. Damrod knew why. The Steward’s son did not want to go home. The news of Míriel’s death had to have reached Denethor by now; going home would make no difference. Except for the grilling that the young man would have to endure. But Damrod felt certain the Steward would understand. None of this was Lord Faramir’s doing. As they sat around a fire one evening, when meeting and greeting another Lord of Gondor had seemed too much for Captain Faramir, Damrod had tried to reassure the man. However, the captain would have none of it. Looking into Faramir’s gray eyes, Damrod’s loyalty seemed to reach new bounds. Faramir was one of the bravest men he had ever served under, even, in his own way, braver than Captain Boromir, yet to be afraid of one’s own father. He clenched his teeth and kept his tongue.

“I know you do not understand,” Faramir finally spoke. “The Steward is a wise man and, if it was anyone but me, would accept my report, backed by yours. However,” he paused, trying to put his feelings into words for he felt he owed this man, of all men, an explanation. “I have made some mistakes in my dealings with those Lord Denethor deems ‘suspect.’ Nothing that would harm Gondor, only myself,” his self-deprecating smile endeared him even more to his underling, “but which makes my fa – makes the Steward question my judgment.”

Damrod sat in silence, but his blood began to boil.

“And judgment is the key in this situation. I foolishly accepted the Lady Míriel as a friend, because of – well, it makes no difference why.” He did not want to bring his uncle’s hearty approbation for the woman to mind. If Imrahil had not been so enthusiastic… But he could not lay blame upon his uncle. As soon her intentions had become clear to him, he should have run the other way. Instead, he was involved in a rendezvous with the woman in his mother’s private gardens. How to explain this to his father? No matter how hard he had tried in the past, his father could read his mind, of that he was certain. Yet, he was innocent. She had waylaid him. “Orc’s breath!”

“Captain. There is naught anyone can do when a woman sets her claws into a man. Your father… The Steward is not a farm boy. He knows the wiles of women. Do not be concerned. Tell him the details and he will accept them.” Much to his chagrin, Faramir would not listen. He tried again, “The Steward will know from your reports that you have appointed yourself well on this trip. Do you not have o’erwhelming pledges from the lords for men and coin? Is that not why you were sent on this mission? It is a success.”

“Míriel is dead and naught will be worse than the telling of that affair.” Faramir shook his head at the ill choice of words. “It is past time. We should return to Minas Tirith. Tell the men we move out in the morning. We stay in Pelargir for two nights and then leave on the third morning.” His aide stood to leave. “Damrod. I do not know what I would have done if Boromir had not sent you with me. Thank you.”

“It is my duty, Captain, naught more.” But the man left him with a smile upon his face and Faramir saw it.

A measure of peace came to him. If men such as Damrod listened and obeyed him, even offered their life for him, perhaps the future that so daunted him was not as bleak as he imagined. He entered his tent and pulled the covers over his face.

In the morning, they broke their fast before the sun broke the sky. The road to Pelargir was well tended, not like so many others they had crossed on their journey. Faramir had made a listing of those roads in dire need of repair. One of the many reports that Faramir would be presenting to Denethor. The list of reports had grown long as their journey progressed. Faramir ticked them off as he rode, not watching the road, but letting Damrod lead them.

By nightfall, they were only a day’s ride from Pelargir. A company of soldiers had been sent out to meet them and a camp was already set. Faramir gratefully sank into the cot prepared for him. He smiled. The captain of Pelargir, what was his name? Gwinhir. That was it. Gwinhir had sent him a luxurious tent with a cot covered in furs, fresh fruits, wines and meat, and new clothes to replace his travel worn outfits. Faramir shook his head. The man was naught but organized. He chafed at the expense, but was too tired but do aught but luxuriate in the feel of it. He slept immediately.

In the middle of the night, he awoke, screaming. Damrod was at his tent door immediately, calling in after him. “I am well. I am sorry, Damrod. A dream, only a dream.” He sat up and shook until his teeth chattered. He had had this dream before, many times, but never so vivid. The wave crashed and rolled, climbed over beautiful, lush, green lands, over hills rampant with sheep and cattle, across great rivered valleys, and inexorably over even the tallest mountain. He saw people running, screaming in terror, as the darkness unescapable, came and covered them. He saw them drowning, trying to fight there way to the top of the crest, but all in vain. They died, screaming, their faces distorted in terror. He sobbed. “Father!” he whispered brokenly. “We are drowning.”

~*~

“The tent is from Lord Amandil. He hopes it served you well. He asks for an audience sometime during your stay at Pelargir. At your convenience,” the man intoned.

Faramir sat in wonder, his tea held loosely in his hand as the servant of Amandil bowed low. Damrod stood by Faramir’s side. “Once I arrive at Pelargir and have my schedule before me, I will contact your lord. Please thank him for his kindness.” The man bowed and left.

Faramir turned to Damrod, amaze writ upon his face. “I do not know why the old lord would want to see me. I have wracked my brain, but there is naught I can do for him.”

“You are the Steward’s son. Mayhap he needs a favor from your father.”

“Amandil is a member of Denethor’s Council. He knows well that my father rarely grants me any favor. I have no sway over the Steward’s will. Well, be that as it may, let us be off. I want to reach Pelargir by early evening. Tell the men and the cooks we will eat nuncheon as we ride.”

“I am very grateful that we do not have to strike this camp, that Amandil’s servants will do that. The tents are large and there are so many. ‘Twould take half the day to pull everything down and pack it. I must admit weariness over such things.”

Faramir smiled. “And yet you do it so well, Damrod.”

Laughing Damrod saluted and left to prepare their departure. Whether or no they were striking camp, still much needed to be done before leaving this camp.

Anor was setting as they approached the city of Pelargir. Captain Gwinhir stepped out of the garrison’s gates and motioned for them to stop. “Lord Faramir. Welcome to Pelargir. You have been missed. However, much as I would wish you to bivouac here at the fort, Lord Amandil has procured a house for you, near the breezes of the Anduin. He begs you to accept it whilst you stay in Pelargir. This guard will take you there, if that is your command.”

Faramir’s brow furrowed. “Is that the only message he gave you?”

“Only one more. That I have been invited to your house for the daymeal, less than an hour from now. Will you be ready by then? Have washed the campaign’s dust from you?”

At that Faramir smiled. “It does not take much to wash if there is a tub, which I am assuming this house has. I think I would like a bath very much! So, I will accept Lord Amandil’s gracious offer and see you there at the twelfth hour. In the meantime, would you make sure my men are cared for? Damrod, come with me.” Faramir saluted and turned to follow the guard.

~*~
A/N – 1) While Linaewen and I were discussing fires and such, she sent me this link. http://e-charcoalmakingprocess.blogspot.com/ It seems plausible that a place like Cair Andros and the other garrisons of Gondor would have a storehouse of charcoal for starting fires. 2) Faramir’s dream taken from ROTK: Book 1 - Ch. 5: The Steward and the King - “Yes,” said Faramir, “of the land of Westernesse that foundered and of the great dark wave climbing over the green lands and above the hills, and coming on, darkness unescapable. I often dream of it.” 3) Regarding above charcoal information - On the road, it seems it would have been different; they probably would not have carried charcoal, if the two passages in FOTR about fa ggots are any indication. In Bree, the Hobbits use fa ggots (bundles of sticks) to get their smoldering fire started again. FOTR: Ch. 10. Strider - “It was not until they had puffed up the embers into a blaze and thrown on a couple of fa ggots that they discovered Strider had come with them." And, of course, the famous line that Boromir speaks as they head towards Caradhras. FOTR: Book 2 - Ch. 3: The Ring Goes South - “When we leave here, where there are still a few trees and bushes, each of us should carry a fa ggot of wood, as large as he can bear.” Pssst – I had to put a space in between some letters in fa ggot to let this board put it up. Censorship. Sadly due to the age we now live in where good words take on an ugly connotation. 4) The twelfth hour is based upon the time used in ROTK: Ch. 1: Minas Tirith - “About the eleventh hour, released at last for a while from service… It was the sunset-hour…”

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52.

They rode easily, for the first time in months for his father was not expecting him back for at least another fortnight. Boromir's mind was ill at ease. Some sense of impending doom. He cursed quietly and rubbed the wound. It still ached, especially after a long day’s ride. If his father ever knew… At that, he paused. There was little one could hide from Denethor, but this he must. He had not rested as he had promised. Every day had been filled with either riding or battle. And the cold nights spent on the ground wrapped in a too-thin blanket had not helped. His wound definitely ached, but it was closed and there was no sign of ill health.

To take his mind off the pain, he began to count the duties he would have to face once they reached the City. The beacon-hills must be reassessed; defense plans made against siege towers; repairs to the Rammas; new weaponry; and so much more. Oh! He had forgotten the trebuchets. Add to that – Míriel.

Beregond rode to his side. "Time to pitch camp?"

"Yes. I need to walk about, try to clear my mind."

"There is much to prepare."

"The Rammas. Yes."

Beregond smiled. "I meant the wedding."

"It is that plain, my disquiet?"

"It is, my Lord. The Chamberlain will handle the details. There is not much you need concern yourself about."

"It is not the ceremony that vexes me."

Another smile, this time wider. "The wedding night?"

Boromir's jaw dropped. "I fear not that night. I fear the years that stretch ahead of me." He dismounted as the company halted at his command.

"I am sorry, my Lord. Mayhap… "

"Say naught more, Beregond. It is known about the Citadel that I am not her preferred companion."

"None would say that aloud, my Lord."

Another low curse.

"I cannot understand why the Lord Denethor insists you wed at this time. There are so many details that must be attended to from the Rammas to the beacon-hills."

"You read my mind, Beregond. However, my father's will must take precedence to mine. He is the wiser one; I must obey." He handed Beregond his reins. "Have the men set up camp. I am going for a walk."

Beregond took the reins and began to shout orders. Controlled chaos reigned as Boromir trudged northward.

After walking a half league or more, Boromir paused, brow furrowed at the sight of wagon marks well away from the road. He walked further, almost a full league, and stopped in horror. Two smashed wagons lay toppled on their sides, soldiers' bodies, fly-covered, lay about, horses, half-eaten, were strewn everywhere. The smell was beyond endurance. He covered his mouth, walked a few yards back the way he had come, leaned over and lost what little was in his stomach. Would his body ever stop betraying him like this? He tore a piece of cloth from his shirt, covered his mouth and nose, and walked back to the carnage.

Two wagons. It was Orcs, of course. He wondered where they had been bound. The men of Gondor seemed to have been attacked at least a fortnight ago. There were nigh unto fifty bodies, another twenty horses. How many had been taken captive to serve as food when the foul creatures were once again hungry? He swore again, this time shouting out the words, but naught eased his heart. At last, not being able to find any recognizable features on any of the men, he turned back to where his own men camped. There was no risk, at least at the moment, for his company. His father would know where this sad group was heading and which captain had led them.

Beregond saw him walking and ran to his side. "Is something amiss, my Lord?"

"Supply wagons attacked about a league from here. Send a burial detail. I recognized no one."

"Orcs?"

"Yes. Though no signs of torture; I am certain they have carried off some of our men."

"Your tent is set, Captain. I will see to the detail."

"Thank you, Beregond," Boromir whispered and walked slowly to his tent. The men parted as he passed, but he had not the heart to speak with them. As he prepared to enter the tent, he paused and looked back. Twenty men were saddled and heading north. He pulled in a breath to stop the tears. Weariness closed in upon him. Pulling the flap behind him, he lay on his cot, arm flung over his eyes and wept.

~*~

The house that Lord Amandil had procured for him was spacious to say the least. It was on a small hill overlooking the harbor, close enough to enjoy the cool breezes during the summer, but far enough away to keep the smell of the city from causing discomfort. Faramir sat on the terrace overlooking the Anduin and at last let himself relax enough to ponder the last month's events. Damrod had been correct; he had done everything in his power to lengthen their journey. And it was not for Damrod’s sake. Though he was most grateful that his aide was healing, and well. The truth of the matter was - he did not want to meet his father's scrutiny over the death of Míriel. He was at once embarrassed and disheartened. The glass of wine in his hand was untouched, his brow furrowed, and that is how Lord Amandil found him.

"My dear Lord Faramir," the man exclaimed loudly, "you will spill your wine if you do not pay more attention to it. Is it not to your liking?"

"It is most excellent. However, my journey has been taxing and I am enjoying the view and the comfort of your benevolence. This house is spacious and most restful."

"I am glad you approve. I had a few properties that I perused before deciding upon this one for your stay here. I am disturbed to discover from your aide that you only plan to spend two days in our fair city. There is so much to see and discuss. I had hoped we could examine the armaments and perhaps inspect the men?"

"And what else would you have of me, Lord Amandil?" Faramir was weary beyond endurance and had not the strength nor the heart for subterfuge. He had been unable to discover what Lord Amandil wanted and it irked him.

"My Lord Faramir," Amandil fairly bristled, "I have only the weal of Gondor ever in my thoughts. We, the entire city, rejoiced at the news of your coming. A banquet was planned for the night after next."

"My Lord Amandil. Forgive my brusqueness. I found the journey wearisome. I was taken with fever for a time and I do not believe I have quite recovered. Give me a night's rest and I will listen to your suggestions for Pelargir. Are the plans for the banquet complete?"

"I did not know," the man apologized profusely. "I will leave you. The banquet can be canceled. If there is aught you need, do not hesitate to ask the servants. Your word is mine. Shall I send my personal healer?" Faramir declined and the man nodded and left.

Faramir leaned his head in his hands.

"Are you truly not well, Captain?"

He heard Damrod's voice behind him. "I am beginning to think I have not recovered. My head aches and I feel chilled. Unfortunately, they have prepared a banquet. It would be wise if we should stay for an extra night.”

"Of course they have. Have we not endured many feasts on this trip? I am tired of the rich food; it will be good to return to Ithilien and simple meals. I fear, though, it should be off to bed with you before I risk the ire of your father. I am ready myself for a good night's sleep. The beds are soft and clean."

"Ah," Faramir smiled, "soft and clean. What more could a man ask for?" He stood up. “Damrod?”
“Yes?”
“Do you know what Amandil wants? Have you heard anything since we arrived this afternoon?”
“I have not.” He paused.
“Out with it!”
“He has a granddaughter.”
Faramir groaned. “Valar preserve me!”
“To bed then, Captain, for you will need all your strength on the morrow.”
Faramir’s groan turned into a soft curse. He nodded and left his aide. The bed was soft and clean, yet his heart was pounding. “I will not listen. I will suggest he meet with father at the Council meeting. There must be one planned soon. There must be.”
He slept fitfully.
~*~

Fury and utter helplessness roiled through him as Boromir recounted the carnage he had seen. "The enemy knew!" the Steward's eldest shouted, his voice grown hoarse, "knew that Amon Dîn was short-staffed, knew that we were north in battle against Easterlings, knew our wagons were on the road, knew we were helpless…" He screamed the last and pushed hard against his desk. A heavy crash and the desk overturned. Sudden silence filled the room. Boromir looked on in horror as papers gently wafted to the floor. At last, he whispered, "We have no hope."

"There is little hope, but what we have, we will guard," his father answered quietly.

"Nay, Father. We have no hope."

"You have forgotten Faramir's hope in the king's return?"

Boromir snorted in derision. "The king. What need have we for a king who comes when all of Gondor is lost? The kings we had were weak. So were the Stewards before you. There is no hope." His voice had grown flat and hard.

"Come into my chambers. Let your man clean this up. We will sit and drink a little brandy and mayhap speak with the wizard."

Boromir looked up in surprise. "Mithrandir is here?"

"He is. He awaits Faramir."

"Of course. And they will read poetry and discuss Elves and all will be lost."

"Boromir! Speak not such bitter words. All is not lost. Not yet."

"You did not see, Father! You did not see what I have seen these past months."

"I have seen such sights before, Boromir," Denethor's tone was gentle. "All my life I have seen such sights."

"And my children will see the same. Father, I cannot wed, not now. Mayhap never. I cannot leave such a legacy."

Denethor drew in his breath. He had forgotten in the fury of Boromir's pain. "Come into my study now, Boromir, as I had commanded you to an hour ago." Denethor turned and strode from Boromir's chambers. His son nodded to his manservant in apology and left.

As he entered Denethor's study, he was surprised to see Húrin and Siriondil there. He nodded to the Master Healer. Boromir so missed Arciryas that it was difficult to look his replacement in the eye. "Warden. It is good to see you again. Is your son well? He is stationed at Linhir, is he not?"

"That he is, Captain-General. His first assignment."

"Ah, yes. I have not seen him in over a year." Boromir found he could no longer speak in a courtly manner, so he closed his mouth and sat heavily on Denethor's settle. Húrin's brow rose, but he said naught.

Denethor entered from his bedchamber, a rolled missive in his hand. "I must read you something, Boromir. But first I must ask Siriondil to look at your wound.”

Boromir stood and began to protest.

“I saw you flinch just now. And I noted you held your stomach after you attacked your desk. Do not try to hide things from me, Boromir. Siriondil,” he motioned and the healer went to Boromir’s side. With barely suppressed anger and some chagrin, Boromir stood, took off his tunic and lifted his shirt. The healer’s hands pressed and a stifled moan escaped the young lord’s lips.

“You did not rest?”

Boromir did not answer.

“A week’s rest at least, my Lord Steward. Else I will have to move him to the Houses. The wound is not infected, but it is tender. It should have lost that tenderness by now, if Captain Boromir had obeyed my orders.”

Denethor nodded. “Thank you. You may go.” He waited till the man left, then turned to Boromir. “I will not chide you, but I do not like you disobeying me. Remember that.”

His tone was soft and low, but Boromir knew he had been severely reprimanded.

“Please sit and listen. Húrin, would you pour Boromir a brandy? And yourself one too."

Húrin nodded and filled three glasses, giving one each to Denethor and Boromir and finally settling himself in an armchair to the right of Boromir. He slowly sipped the drink and waited; he knew the missive that Denethor carried.

"My Lord Steward," Denethor read, "I have the unfortunate duty to inform you of a grave matter."

"Faramir!" Boromir jumped up, spilling his drink as he stood.

"Nay. Sit now and listen," Denethor's voice was crisp and firm. "It is from your Uncle Imrahil. It is about Faramir but there is naught to fear; he is well. Now, let me continue." He waited until Boromir sat once again.

"I have not had to write such a hard report in a very long time. I beg you to know that your son, Faramir, had naught to do with the happenings, except to be in the wrong place at the wrong time." Boromir made as if to stand, but Denethor's withering gaze stayed him. "There was an accident. The Lady Miriel is dead." Denethor paused.

This time, Boromir stood slowly. He walked to his father's side and put his hand on Denethor's shoulder. "I am sorry, Father."

"You know of her fondness for Faramir," Denethor continued. "She assumed it was returned. When he did not meet her at a time she appointed, she rode from her home to Dol Amroth. The road is treacherous in part and she was distraught. She rode too close to the cliffs; her horse fell; she fell with it. Lord Galador was in pursuit and saw the accident. He came to report it to me. I will tell you that we had her mummified and buried in state in the crypt at my palace. After an appropriate mourning time, Faramir left. He is continuing his journey and will pass through Pelargir before he turns north for Minas Tirith.

"Please accept my deepest sympathies for the loss of your future daughter-in-law. Please extend these sympathies to my dearest nephew, Boromir. Other circumstances surrounded her death, but I will make haste to personally bring you those tidings. I leave within the week. Respectfully, Prince Imrahil."

"Has he arrived?" Boromir asked quietly.

"He has not."

"Were other missives sent? Did not Faramir write a report?"

"Nay."

Boromir turned towards the window and looked, with unseeing eyes, upon the Pelennor. "I should be sorry. I am not. Nay, I am sorry for her mother and father. It is a terrible blow. We expect men to die, for battle wages all around us. But to have such a young and vibrant woman…" Boromir rubbed his face with his left hand. "It is not right." He sighed wearily. "Would you have me go to Dol Amroth and offer my condolences to her family?"

"Nay. Imrahil has done our duty for us. When the Council meets on Yáviérë, you may extend your sympathies to her father. Besides which, my Master Healer has ordered you to rest. I need you here in the City, Boromir."

"May I go, Father?"

"Nay, Boromir. I deem it not well for you to be alone at this time. Húrin was about to give me his reports on the Rammas. I thought you would be interested."

Boromir nodded wearily.

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53.

Boromir woke with a start to hear whispers coming from his father’s dining room. It had been a very long time since he had fallen asleep during a meeting. He wondered, briefly, what his father would say, but of more concern to him was the fact that Anor was setting; the Pelennor was almost black. ‘My men!’ he thought. They were to meet for the daymeal and here he was. He rose and heard his name called. “Yes, Father, I am awake.” Walking into the outer chamber, he stopped in surprise.

“Well met, young lord,” Mithrandir smiled at him.

“My Lord Mithrandir. It is good to see you again.”

“Not from what I hear. Poetry and such, bah!”

The smile on the wizard’s face gave away the remark for the jest it was, but Boromir, nonetheless, was disconcerted. “Forgive me. I spoke rashly.”

“Nay. When your brother and I get together, we tend to babble.”

Boromir smiled broadly. “Then sometime, mayhap, I might join you?”

“Boromir,” Denethor interrupted. “Beregond was here and took a message back to your men. You will meet in a tavern, he said, on the Fourth Level. That is not the ‘Three Fishermen’ by any chance, is it?”

Nodding his head and not taking the bait, Boromir sat at table. Immediately, Denethor’s man brought out a salver filled with food. “What were you two discussing when I entered?”

“The Rammas. Your father thinks he should let the North Gate alone until the rest of the changes have been made. I disagree.”

“But Rohan guards our border.”

“You yourself, if I am correct, know of the attacks to the north. I deem it unwise to wait.”

“He has a point, Father,” Boromir spoke between bites. “The wagons were attacked with impunity.”

“You listed the reasons they were attacked, Boromir. Those reasons will now be corrected. Never again will I leave Amon Dîn so poorly manned.”

“That will help,” Boromir conceded. He took a long drink of wine and then stood up. “If you will forgive me, Mithrandir – Father – I would bathe before I meet with my men.”

Mithrandir’s laughter rang throughout the room. “You would eat with us unwashed and yet meet with your men bathed. Have they not endured your stench these past few months?”

“I am sorry,” Boromir colored. “I did not realize…”

Denethor put his hand on his son’s shoulder. “The wizard teases you, Boromir. Go now and attend to your needs. I would meet with you on the morrow. There will be a Council during Yáviérë; the schedule is already filled for two full days.”

“Thank you, Father. I will break my fast with you tomorrow.” Surprisingly, his father took him in a warm hug.

“Rest tonight,” he whispered.

Boromir returned the embrace. “I will.” He nodded to the wizard and left them.

“He is suffering from the wound still?”

Denethor looked closely at him. “He is. Again, I find myself perplexed. You know more than I give you credit for.”

“I only watch. He grimaced when you embraced him. I do not think it was from discomfort at your show of affection.”

Denethor laughed heartily. “You are wily. I think we can now continue our game.” He strode to the study and pulled out the drawer that contained their ‘Kings Stewards’ game. “I believe it is my move?”

The wizard sat across from him. Lighting his pipe, he continued where they left off. “Rohan will guard your borders only until they are attacked somewhere else. I deem it unwise to leave the North Gate last for refitting.”

“Do you know something about Rohan that I do not?”

“I think not. You see more than many, my Lord Denethor. What do you see?”

Denethor’s brow furrowed. “I see a friend in a spiral of decay. I see a great and courageous mind lost to confusion and… poison? I see him trusting a wizard’s pupil.” A slight chill ran down his back, but he stayed the urge to shudder.

“A wizard’s pupil? I have no pupils.”

“Are you the only wizard in the land? I think not. Though I believe my son listens to you with unbridled devotion.”

“Faramir is your son. He thinks for himself, though he deigns to give an old man respect.”

“I do not?”

“You show it on the outside, but I doubt there is any in your heart.”

At this, Denethor shivered. “I value your opinions but I will not obey you just because of who you are. You are right in saying I see much. I have seen things which cause me to question your motives.”

“If you speak of my relationship with your father, then you are correct. I deemed your father wiser than you. However, you have grown in wisdom since then.”

Giving a low chuckle, Denethor moved a piece. “I begin to question. I do not accept what you say without balancing it against all I know.”

“Your son questions you and for that you deem him my pupil. Do you not wish, Lord Denethor, that you had questioned Ecthelion?”

Denethor drew in a sharp breath. “Yes. I do wish that.” He shivered again. “But I would still obey him.”

“Faramir obeys you.”

“Not always. Not always.” He grew silent and did not note when Gandalf moved his knight.

“Check.”

Another moment passed. The wizard waited. “Check,” he repeated at last.

Denethor looked down at the board in surprise. “Will you be here for the Council meeting?”

“Do you want me there?”

“I do. I want you ever before me.”

“So that you can watch me?”

Denethor smiled, but the smile did not reach his eyes. “Yes.” He lay his king down. “I fear I have lost.”

“Just this round, Lord Denethor, just this round.”

~*~

Faramir sat at Amandil’s table and tried to hide the grimace. Not only had Amandil a granddaughter, but also a niece. He was telling how his own daughter had been considered as a mate for Denethor before Prince Adrahil offered Finduilas. The man’s tone was harsh and bitter. Faramir had all he could do to contain himself. The effrontery! To speak of his grandfather in such discourteous terms was bad enough yet, the man did not stop there. The tone he used when he spoke Finduilas’ name held only contempt. Faramir at last could stand it no longer. “Thank you for inviting me to your home and the wonders of your table. I must prepare to leave though. I have extended my stay two days beyond my original plan. My father awaits my reports. You know it is not wise to keep the Steward waiting. As for your proposal, I will carry the missives to the Lord Denethor. I will ask him to make time to discuss them after the Council meeting.”

Amandil sputtered and Faramir knew the man was furious at the early leave-taking, but it could not be helped. If Faramir stayed any longer, he was afraid he would gut the man with his dirk. Damrod saluted and stood between the two.

“All of Pelargir will be sorry to see you leave, my Lord Faramir. My thanks for sharing my table. Nerwin, Mithrellas, offer the Lord Faramir your thanks for spending time with us this evening.”

Both women bowed their heads. Nerwin giggled and Amandil sputtered even louder. “The girls will be coming with me to Minas Tirith for Yáviérë. They have not been to the City before. Perhaps you could arrange an escort to show them about?”

“Of course. I will see to it. Again, my thanks for your hospitality. Come, Damrod.” He saluted, followed the servant out and left the palatial home quickly behind him.

“I think you can stop running, Captain. None seem to be following us.” Damrod started laughing.

“I am not running.”

“For all intents and purposes, Captain, you are running. I can hardly keep up.”

“Damrod, I am sorry. Is the wound…?”

“Nay, Faramir, but the laughter is too much to continue at this pace. You should have seen your face when he brought those women into the room. I thought I would have to pick you up off the floor.”

“He said naught about presenting his granddaughter and niece. I was taken unawares.”

“You almost chocked to death on your wine. He could have warned you,” his aide grinned.

“How do I get myself into these predicaments? The Valar must hate me.”

Damrod started choking. He stopped and bent over. Faramir shoved him. “Stop it now!”

“I am sorry. I have too good a memory. The look was beyond price.”

Faramir stopped and leaned heavily against a wall. “I am definitely doomed. I will not take them around the City. I have learned my lesson.”

“Thankfully, it is your brother’s hand that Amandil seeks for those he loves. You are not worth much as of yet.”

Faramir started laughing. “Poor Boromir!”

Damrod joined him and the two men leaned on each other as they made their way back to their quarters, laughter causing them to stop many times on the road.

~*~

“It is time we began the preparations for the Council meeting, Húrin. We have the agenda already set, but we must prepare as many reports as possible to present to the lords. I want no arguments this time. I want everything made clear to them so they do not question me.”

“A good and sincere thought, Denethor, but do you truly think the lords will not question you?”

Denethor snarled. His guard entered the room. “What is it?”

“Prince Imrahil requests an audience.”

“Imrahil. I did not hear the call. Send him in. Send him in.” He rang the bell and his manservant entered. Quickly he gave orders for food and wine, then turned to Húrin. “Did you hear his horns?”

“Nay. Did he not want to be heralded?”

“I know not. Ah! Imrahil,” he stood and embraced the Swan Prince. “Welcome. Did you not bring an entourage? I heard no trumpets.”

“Only a small company, my Lord Denethor. I must return to Dol Amroth. My stay will not be long. In fact, if I have my way, I will leave tonight.”

Denethor looked in surprise at the man. “Come into my study.” He led the way, offered a chair to Imrahil, and sat behind his desk. “You come to give me report?”

“I do, my Lord Steward.”

“It is serious then. You use my title.”

“I will not beguile you with words of comfort. A wanton act of treachery occurred in my city. I have come to beg your forgiveness and to ask your will in the matter.”

Denethor sat back. His servant entered and Denethor nodded that Imrahil be served first. The prince declined. Denethor waved the man off and sat forward. “Is there a written report?”

“Nay. I deemed the matter too… delicate.”

“Begin then. I will try not to interrupt.”

Imrahil told the whole tale, evincing every detail. At the end, Denethor sat back. “So my son is an idiot and your cousin is a wanton woman!”

Imrahil stood in fury. “Say naught about Faramir. He appointed himself well. As for my cousin, I bid you speak not ill of the dead.”

“My son would now be buried in your vaults if not for his aide. I will speak of her as I will. Galador has been banished to Athrad, you say. I want him here, in Minas Tirith, for trial.”

“My Lord Denethor,” Mithrandir spoke up and Imrahil started to see the wizard sitting in a chair by the fire. “As Prince Imrahil states, it is a delicate matter. If you bring the girl’s father here, put him on trial, you shame your line.”

“I want the man dead,” Denethor hissed. “He dared to touch my son, my son!”

Boromir strode into the room. “Your shouts can be heard down the hall, Father.” He turned and walked to Imrahil’s side. “Uncle.” Imrahil stood and was enveloped in Boromir’s arms. “It is good to see you. I am sorry you come with such disturbing news. How fares Faramir? What is this that father speaks of?” He motioned and Imrahil sat.

“Lord Galador lost his mind in the grief of his daughter’s death. He attacked Faramir, but Damrod took the blow instead.”

“Damrod lives?” Boromir’s face had grown white.

“He does. The wound was not deep. However, Faramir took injury earlier in the day. He has had a difficult journey. Before he reached Dol Amroth, he was afflicted with a fever that left him weak. Míriel surprised him in your mother’s gardens…” He stopped as he heard Denethor’s indrawn breath, then continued, “He fell against one of the marble benches and was concussed. I do not want to live through another day like that one.”

“Where is Lord Galador?”

“I sent him to Athrad at Faramir’s request. The man’s wife has become unhinged. She began writing missives, nasty things, to Faramir. He was concerned for my welfare.”

Boromir sat next to his uncle, took a glass of wine for himself and insisted that Imrahil take one too. “You still have authority over the man? You can bring him back here, to Minas Tirith?”

“Of course. He is in the coast guard there.”

“Then, Father, if it is truly your wish to hold a trial, we have not lost the man. It is easy enough to summon him here. Mayhap you would wish to wait to hear what Faramir has to say?”

“I know what your brother would say. He would bid me have mercy upon the man. If news of this treachery is found out and that I have done nothing to punish the man for his act of treason, then all of Gondor suffers. Yes, I put my anger and pain first, but I deem it unwise to let this matter drift into oblivion. For it will not. Rumors already abound. There must be some retribution made. The man’s actions call for his hanging.”

“And yet mercy would not be unwelcome by your people. What would you do if Faramir had actually died? Would you hold your anger in check? I speak foolishly; your mind is greater than Galador’s. Faramir’s mercy should be yours, Father. It would benefit Gondor.”

“Well spoken, young lord,” Mithrandir said quietly. “He speaks rightly, Lord Denethor. The people would understand a ruling of mercy along with banishment.”

“Banishment. Yet the man still serves me in the guard. This I will no tolerate. Imrahil, when you return to Dol Amroth you will carry a proclamation from me stating that Galador and all his heirs and kin are banished forever from Gondor’s soil.”

Imrahil stiffened, but nodded his acceptance of his liege lord’s will. “It will be posted on the city’s gates.”

Denethor sat wearily. “Faramir? Has he completely recovered? Where is he now?”

“He went to Pelargir to complete the task you set him. However, I had expected him to be here.”

“I have received a few reports from him, brief ones, but nothing from Pelargir. Nor from Dol Amroth.”

“I imagine he holds the Dol Amroth report until he can give it personally.”

“Forgive my outburst, Imrahil,” Denethor said quietly, “and accept my hospitality. Stay at least another day, until Faramir arrives. It would much hearten the boy to see you.”

“I will, Denethor. I would speak with him. See how he fares. I was concerned for him. I knew not if he had recovered from his other wounds. Then to be assailed with fever, a concussed head, and a guilt-ridden heart…”

“Guilt-ridden? What had he to be guilt-ridden? You say the woman threw herself at him.”

“Father,” Boromir gently chided. “You speak of Faramir. Of course he would be guilt-ridden.”

Denethor turned towards the window. ‘He carries Finduilas’ weakness.’ His face burned in shame and sorrow.

“Nuncheon is ready, my Lord.”

“Belegorn!” Boromir rose in surprise and hugged the man. “It is good to see you! What are you doing here in the City? Does not Mardil keep you chained to him? I did not think he could captain Halifirien without you!”

Belegorn smiled and returned the embrace. “No one can say nay to the Lord Steward of Gondor. I am now your father’s aide and this is most embarrassing.” He tried to pull away from Boromir, but the heir would not allow it.

Boromir turned to Denethor. “Father! This man was one of those who saved my life! I owe him much.”

“Mayhap I should raise him to captain, assign him to the Tower Guard?”

“Nay, my Lord Steward. I am content to be your aide. Please let me continue. Lord Boromir, I am happy to serve your family in this way. Do not interpose your will upon your father.”

“Aye, Belegorn. I will not. Father is desperately in need of a good aide. I am grateful, as will my brother be. Thank you!”

“Nuncheon is ready,” Belegorn quipped and Boromir laughed. “Father, may Belegorn join us?”

“Nay!” Belegorn held the wanted shout down to a gentle whisper at the same time that Denethor said, ‘yes.’

“Sit with us this day, Belegorn. Afterwards, you may again pick up your duties. I would hear more of the daring rescue of my son.”

~*~

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54.

Two days later, Beregond ran to Boromir’s side. “He should be at the Harlond within the hour!” Excitement tinged his voice.

Boromir quickly thanked his sparring partner then turned to his aide. “Help me get this off. And send someone to draw a bath. And tell Imrahil. And Siriondil. I need him with us.”

Beregond laughed. “As soon as we relieve you of this armor. I am only one man; I can do only one task at a time.”

Impatiently, Boromir worked at the clasps. At last, he was free of the heavy armor. He ran to the baths, tore off his mail, shirt, leggings, and under things and plunged in. The attendant had stopped trying to help him after the first moment. However, he did bring the soaps for washing. He poured a pitcher full of water over Boromir’s head and lathered his hair. In the meantime, Boromir was quickly washing himself. At about the same time the attendant poured the rinse water over him, Boromir was done. He took the proffered towel and hastily dried himself. Wrapping the towel around his waist, he ran to the dressing rooms, threw his clothes on his half-dried body and strode outside. Imrahil and Siriondil waited for him. He clasped their hands.

“Thank you for your haste,” he said as they quietly walked down through the circles of the City. “Siriondil. I want him examined thoroughly, though he will complain - and loudly. His wounds from the ambush and his head, especially his head. And make sure there is no sign of fever.”

The Master Healer of Gondor nodded. “Of course he will complain. Am I not used to the sons of Denethor complaining?” He smiled at the flush that crept across Boromir’s face. “I will be gentle, but thorough, Lord Boromir. I did learn my trade from Arciryas himself.”

A shadow crossed Boromir’s face. “It is hard to believe he is gone.”

“Much happier, I am sure, now that he is free of his duty to your line!”

Boromir laughed gently. “And he is with Amma, if the scholars tell it rightly.”

“Our fondest wish,” Imrahil interjected, “that those we love and have lost dwell somewhere together in peace and happiness.”

“Yes. Now, Uncle, what should I look for? Was he distraught, desolate when he left Dol Amroth?”

“As I told your father, he was sad and guilt-ridden…”

“Damrod should have beaten the guilt out of him by now,” Boromir laughed.

They reached the First Level and went through the Great Gate. Their horses were saddled and ready. A company of Gondor’s Knights sat in readiness.

“What is this?” Boromir cried. “I ordered no muster.”

“The Steward’s order, Captain-General.”

Boromir paled, but accepted the escort. After they were mounted, he gave the signal to move out.

Imrahil leaned over. “You did not seriously think your father was not aware that Faramir approached? Or your response?” He laughed quietly. “Be grateful he did not join us.”

In fact, Denethor waited for them at the gate that opened from the Harlond onto the Pelennor. A small smile of delight that he had surprised Boromir shone from his eyes. “Is your look of chagrin due to the fact that I arrived first? Or did you wish to greet Faramir privately?” Denethor paused. “Ah! You are concerned at the reception I might offer.” His demeanor changed. “I would have thought that you, above all men, would know that I would greet him with joy. It saddens me, Boromir, your ill-regard for me.”

Boromir slid from his horse and handed the reins to Beregond. Imrahil and Siriondil had stopped many paces back, as soon as Imrahil recognized who awaited them.

Boromir embraced his father. “It is not ill-regard, Father. My concern is for Faramir’s health.”

“And mine is not?” Denethor quirked an eyebrow as he returned the embrace.

Boromir sighed heavily and stepped back. “How do I say this to you, Father? I care not for myself. You know me and love me and I am well aware and gratified by your love. However…”

“However my scrutiny of your brother’s dealings makes me suspect?”

“He has been on the road for months after having endured ambush and wounding…”

“You do not have to continue, Boromir. I am well aware of the trials but have beset your brother.”

“Your son,” Boromir whispered.

Denethor’s face blazed. “My son,” he spoke through clenched teeth, “knows my love for him. He will expect me to judge him fairly. However, my suspicious son, I did not come to the Harlond to question him; I came to welcome him home.”

“Forgive me, Father.”

“There is naught to forgive. Why did you bring the healer here? Do you expect the lad to strip and endure examination on the docks?”

Boromir smiled. “I have a room readied in the Harbor Master’s quarters.”

“Do you not think it would be wiser to have Faramir examined in the Houses?”

“I am concerned, Father. He had a fever before he left Minas Tirith, albeit from the poisoned arrows; yet again, Imrahil states he had a fever at Tarnost. I am concerned,” he repeated lamely. “My own wound is slow to heal. I would have Faramir examined sooner than later. Here, he cannot say, nay.”

“That is sound reasoning.”

At that moment, Faramir’s horn could be heard, calling out loud and clear.

“At least he has the strength to wind it well.” Denethor motioned and Imrahil and Siriondil joined them. “Why do you not show Siriondil where he is to meet Faramir. He can set up his instruments and be ready. Imrahil and I will wait here.”

A quarter of an hour passed and Faramir’s banner could be seen. Boromir had returned and stood anxiously, almost on tiptoe, waiting for the first sight of his brother.

The look of discomfiture at his presence would have made Denethor smile if not for the pallid skin and sweat evidenced upon his youngest’s brow. He stepped forward and waited. Faramir slowly dismounted and found himself enveloped in his father’s warm embrace.

“You were missed,” Denethor whispered. “And not just by Boromir.” He started to shake in alarm as he felt Faramir sway in his arms. “You are not well?” he whispered.

“Nay, Father.” Faramir swallowed, “The fever returns.”

“Damrod!” Denethor called but Boromir was at his side and gently took Faramir’s arm and held him upright.

“Siriondil awaits.” He pointed and Denethor and he walked Faramir to the Harbor Master’s quarters only a few short paces away.

Siriondil helped him to a bed in a corner of the room and knelt, feeling his head, then his pulse. “Boromir, help him take off his upper clothing.”

Boromir nodded and helped his brother undress. Damrod took the shed clothes and mail and placed them on a nearby chair. Then, he bent and loosed the clasps on Faramir’s boots and took them off.

Siriondil helped the boy lie down. Boromir and Denethor stood back, waiting. After a few moments, the healer said, “Send for a stretcher and a cart.” He turned back at Faramir’s cry of protest. “I do not know how you stayed ahorse as long as you did. Your fever is high. Damrod, when did this begin?”

“About a week ago. It spikes in the afternoon, quite high. A week’s journey out of Pelargir.”

“Nay. The first time.”

“Ah! Near Tarnost. We stayed in the town for a fortnight whilst it raged unchecked. In the mornings he would be almost himself, but by afternoon the fever brought him down. I wanted to send for you but Faramir refused. It finally passed. Prince Imrahil had him thoroughly examined when we reached Dol Amroth. He was found fit.”

Siriondil turned to Imrahil. “He was fit? There was no sign of a fever?”

“There was not,” the prince stated. “He was examined three times whilst he was with me. Once the day he arrived, the day he received the head-wound; once as a follow-up to that, to make certain he was healing; and again before he left Dol Amroth. I would not have allowed him to travel if I thought aught was amiss.”

“What times were the examinations?”

“I do not understand.”

“Were they in the mornings or the afternoons?”

“Mornings. Always mornings.”

Siriondil shook his head and turned to Faramir. “Did you experience fever whilst in Dol Amroth?” he asked gently.

“I did not, but felt weak.”

“Did your head hurt?”

“Of course. I had hit it hard on a marble bench. The ache has never left me.”

“Did you tell Imrahil’s healer?”

“I did at first. But afterwards did not. He said I had a concussed wound. I expected pain.”

“Boromir strip him.”

Faramir made to protest but the healer would have none of it. “Have you any boils? Seeping wounds?”

“Nay.”

“Good. That is fortunate for us, but I must examine you myself to make certain. Sometimes, before they open, they are not readily seen.”

He moved Faramir’s arms and examined the armpits, then moved his legs, and finally rolled him on his back, examining every part of him. At last he sighed. “I think we have caught it in time. I see no seeping wounds. You may help dress him, Boromir. Faramir,” he turned again to the lad, “before you arrived in Tarnost, where did you stay?”

“Farms and villages along the way, or encamped in the valleys.”

“Did you touch any farm animals? Did you drink any milk or perhaps ate local cheeses?”

Faramir held his hands to his eyes and rubbed them. “I ache,” he whispered as Boromir buttoned his shirt. “Damrod?”

“I am here, Captain. Siriondil, we were offered goat’s milk at a farm at the beginning of our journey. I did not take it, but Faramir did.”

“What is wrong with him?” Denethor at last could stand the suspense no longer.

“I believe he has undulant fever. It can be treated. It is not acute, not yet. I will need special medicaments though. I have some in the Houses. Faramir, we must begin treatment immediately. You have had this for sometime. The longer we wait, the more difficult it will be to treat it.”

Faramir nodded as they brought the stretcher in. He meekly let the men put him on it, take him from the room, and place him in a cart. He closed his eyes, but opened them as he felt someone sit next to him.

“Rest now, my son. All will be well.”

~*~

Boromir never left Faramir’s side. The mornings were pleasant and the brothers shared tales of their last trips in between Faramir’s naps. Denethor’s youngest was most interested in the new armor the Easterlings wore and his oldest was most concerned about Amandil and his retinue of female kin. The fever caused extreme fatigue, besides all its other manifestations, and Faramir slept most mornings away. But when afternoons came, Faramir was consumed by fever. At these times, Siriondil himself would attend the lad, using cold compresses to mitigate the damage. The two teas he used, from taheebo and chinchona bark, were given to Faramir four times a day. By the end of the second week, Denethor began to question his healer’s competence.

“I have not seen any fever such as this, but it is written in the archives as is the treatment. We are doing what is specified. There have been no wounds and that means the teas are reducing the affects of the ailment.”

“Could it not be malaria? Mayhap you are treating the wrong sickness?” The Steward wondered.

“Even if my conclusion was incorrect, the teas would still heal him. This is a dangerous ailment that Faramir has contracted. If he is not tended rightly, serious damage will occur to the rest of his body. I know I am correct in saying this is undulant fever, Lord Denethor. Please trust me.”

Denethor nodded and went back into Faramir’s room. It was near to the time the fever usually worsened. But today, at last, Faramir rested. Denethor smiled at Boromir as the man stood and let his father take his place. “Well, you are looking a tad better, my son.”

Faramir smiled weakly. “My head does not ache today.”

“No chills?” Siriondil asked.

“Nay. Not today.” He shivered.

Siriondil smiled and sat at the side opposite Denethor. “Then what is the shiver for?”

Looking at Denethor, he shivered again.

“What is it, my son? What ails you now?”

“I have not given my report.” His voice whispered out the statement in horror.

“You just now remember that?” Siriondil asked.

“Never the mind, Faramir. Damrod handed them to me at the Harlond. Húrin and I and my captains have been studying them. Recommendations will be made at this month’s Council.”

“They were complete? You did not need further information?”

“The one on Pelargir was only thirty pages. I assumed you would add any further knowledge once you recovered.”

Faramir’s brow knit. “I cannot seem to recall what was in the report. I am dreadfully sorry, Father.”

“Nay. I teased you, Faramir. The report was complete. Was more than complete as is your wont with all your reports. Do not trouble yourself.”

“Will I stand before the Council?”

“Nay. We meet in a fortnight. I do not think you will have recovered enough to spend two grueling days with the likes of the Lords of Gondor. Boromir will attend and report back to you.”

“The fever seems to have broken. This is very good,” Siriondil sat back, pleased with himself. “We will continue the regimen of teas. Another four weeks or so and you should be released from the Houses.”

“Four weeks!” Faramir tried to sit up, but Denethor gently held him down. “I must be off to the Causeway Forts. I was to oversee the repairs to the Rammas.” He put his hand to his head and pushed against the pain that suddenly assailed him.

“You are going nowhere. I need you here to keep Mithrandir company. He begs daily for a game of ‘Kings and Stewards’ and then roundly thrashes me. I need respite from him.”

“Mithrandir is here?” Faramir asked in wonder. “When did he arrive?”

“Years ago, it seems to me,” Denethor smiled warmly. “He has oft asked after you.”

Faramir’s cringed. “I did not ask him to come for my sake, Father. Remember? You ordered me to send for him.”

Denethor’s eyes misted at the look of fear on his son’s face. “Be not concerned, Faramir. I well remember that it was I ordered him here. He is researching some things for me. I would have you help him, when you are better.”

Faramir nodded, his hand once again at his temple.

“Since you are not assailed by the fever this afternoon, I think we should not assail you with things of Gondor, Faramir. Rest now.” He placed a kiss on Faramir’s brow. “Boromir. I would see you for the daymeal? Húrin will be present. I would like to review the list of items for the Council meeting?”

His son began to protest, then nodded. “Damrod,” the ever-present soldier stepped forward. “Will you stay with Faramir tonight?” The aide smiled and nodded. “I will leave you now, brother. Do not do anything foolish until I return. I would devise some scheme against father for the fright he just gave you.”

Denethor looked in mock surprise. “I will leave you to your devising.” He stood and embraced his oldest. “Do not leave him yet. Join me at the daymeal.”

Boromir nodded and returned the embrace, then took his father’s seat at Faramir’s side. “You are not quite rid of me yet, little brother.”

~*~

A/N – Sorry for the long author’s notes… but the disease Faramir has contracted, though rare, is known. The below notes about acute brucellosis were not exhibited by Faramir. I used the symptoms that are most common and also highest – 80% or above. He was a healthy young man and the disease was diagnosed and treated before other symptoms could occur. Thankfully!
Onset of brucellosis (undulant fever) is usually insidious, but the disease course falls into two distinct phases. Characteristically, the acute phase causes fever, chills, profuse sweating, fatigue, headache... Despite this disease's common name… few patients have a truly intermittent (undulant) fever; in fact, fever is commonly insignificant. It may be observed if the patient goes without treatment for a long time. Fever is the most common symptom and sign of brucellosis… intermittent in 60% of patients with acute and chronic conditions and undulant in 60% of patients with subacute brucellosis. Fever can be associated with a relative bradycardia. It is associated with chills in almost 80% of cases. Constitutional symptoms… fatigue, weakness, and malaise and are very common (>90% of cases). Bone and joint symptoms include arthralgias, low back pain, spine and joint pain, and, rarely, joint swelling. These symptoms affect as many as 55% of patients. Neuropsychiatric symptoms are frequent despite the rare involvement of the nervous system. Headache, depression, and fatigue are the most frequently reported neuropsychiatric symptoms. Gastrointestinal symptoms, present in 50% of patients, include abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, and vomiting. Neurologic symptoms can include weakness, dizziness, unsteadiness of gait, and urinary retention. Symptoms associated with cranial nerve dysfunction may affect persons with chronic CNS involvement. Respiratory symptoms of cough and dyspnea are present in as many as 19% of persons; however, these symptoms are rarely associated with active pulmonary involvement. http://wrongdiagnosis.com/b/brucellosis/book-diseases-7a.htm
Pau d'arco, or the inner bark of the Tabebuia avellanedae tree… Preliminary laboratory research… is beginning to suggest that the traditional uses may have scientific merit. Such laboratory studies have shown that pau d'arco has pain killing, diuretic, anti-inflammatory, anti-infectious, anti-psoriatic, and anti-cancer abilities. Taking this early data, combined with information collected about traditional uses, herbalists may recommend pau d'arco to treat or prevent a number of conditions, including candidiasis (a yeast infection of the ****** or oral areas), herpes simplex virus, influenza, parasitic diseases such as schistosomiasis, bacterial infections such as brucellosis, and inflammation of the cervix (cervicitis) or the ****** (vaginitis). http://www.taumed.com/content/adam/browse.jsp?pid=33&cid=000268 and Taheebo tea - http://www.pau-d-arco.com/
"Quinine is derived from the bark of the chinchona tree. In the early seventeenth century, Jesuit missionary priests in Central America were known to chew the bark of trees as a way to distinguish between them. The bark of the chinchona tree was noted to relieve the symptoms (fever) of malaria, which was endemic to that area… By the 1670s, the bark was being used throughout Europe. In the mid 1700s, the French explorer De la Condamine identified the tree and named it quinquina (the word comes from quina, which is Peruvian vernacular for chinchona). In 1852, a Dutch expedition succeeded in transplanting chinchona seeds and plants to Java in the Dutch East Indies. By the end of that century, 90 percent of the world's supply of quinine came from Java.1,2..." http://www.accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aID=3002922


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55.

Loud shouts could be heard coming from the Council chambers. Denethor held his temper in check, but watched as, many times during the two-day meeting, Boromir stood and addressed those present. Denethor’s heart fairly burst with pride. He had never seen his eldest so animated, so ready with his reports, and so easily at command of every rebuttal. By the end of the second day, he knew Boromir could, if need be, take the Stewardship. A soft glow lit his face as he left the chambers, oblivious to the chaos that surrounded him. He wanted to share this moment, to share it with his Finduilas. As he walked slowly back to his own rooms, he wondered if he dared take a moment and look at the past in the stone. If he could not speak with her, he could at least see her, perhaps when she was in the garden, holding Faramir in her arms, with Boromir asleep in her lap. He clenched his teeth as unimaginable pain pierced his heart. Loss mixed with love for her and pride for Boromir assailed him. He stopped and held the wall for a moment.

“Father?” A gentle, beloved voice pulled him from his reverie.

“Faramir? Are you allowed out of your bed?” Concern washed across his face as the remembered moment with Faramir in Finduilas’ arms crossed his mind.

“I am. For a moment only. I wanted to be there, at the end. To see him.”

The smile that lit Faramir’s face was reflected on Denethor’s. “He did well. Did you see the last parry with Amandil? The man never knew what hit him.”

Faramir’s smile turned downward. “He only showed him the folly of his thoughts. Boromir did not speak in anger or vindictiveness. Lord Amandil was left his dignity.”

Denethor stood back a moment and looked at his youngest. “He has no dignity. He only cares for his fiefdom. He has no concern for Gondor. One day you will learn this, Faramir. That none but we, your brother, you and I, are the only ones who care for Gondor.”

“Lord Amandil does have dignity, my father, in his own way. I did not think Boromir was unkind in his words.”

“I saw it differently.”

They walked slowly up the stairs towards Denethor’s chambers.

Just as they reached the door, it opened and Boromir stepped forward, embracing his father. “Did you see that? Did you see how they finally agreed with you, Father? It was incredible. I have never felt so alive, even during a campaign. It was incredible,” he repeated, his eyes shining with joy. “Faramir!” He embraced his brother. “Were you there? Oh! I am sorry. I did not see you. I wanted you so much to be there, to see all that we had practiced. It worked perfectly. They did just as you thought.” He pulled back from the embrace. “You are wonderful! I could not have done this without your help. They would have never agreed, if I had presented your reports the way I wanted to. I can see that now! Thank you.”

He held his brother again as Denethor looked on, first in bafflement and then, in anger as understanding dawned. “Come into my chambers. Both of you,” he shut the door behind them firmly, more firmly than he wanted to as Boromir and Faramir looked at him in surprise. “Sit and tell me of what you speak, my son.”

Faramir went to the sideboard and poured the wine. He brought one to Denethor and then handed one to Boromir, sitting next to his brother in peace. It had been a wondrous exhibition of statesmanship. Boromir was right; everything had gone as they had planned. But the joy of the moment was overshadowed by waves of… he know not what he felt from his father, but he knew Denethor was disappointed in some way. What it could be about, he could not fathom.

Just at that moment, Imrahil was shown in. Mithrandir followed. Imrahil strode to Boromir’s side and lifted the young man into a warm embrace. “Excellent! Truly excellent. Not only did you speak well, you carried yourself well. I am most impressed.” He turned to Denethor. “Well, what have you to say about these sons of yours? Are they not a force to be reckoned with? When Boromir becomes Steward and Faramir his Councilor, all Gondor will know they are almost as formidable as their father. You must be proud; I know I am.”

The wizard, too, patted Boromir on the back, then turned and smiled warmly at Faramir. “Your reports were well written, as I have said before. They gave Boromir a strong foundation to use. Not to abuse the Councilors but to open their eyes.” He turned towards Denethor. “To think that the men and coin that had been promised to Faramir during his recent journey has been doubled is a feat that was well worth the hours we spent together devising a rebuttal to their concerns. Indeed, as Prince Imrahil states, you must be very proud of them.” The eyes that met his were angry and Mithrandir drew in a sharp, albeit silent breath.

“I am proud, as I always have been, of both my sons. It has been a tiring two days, along with the weeks before in preparation. Mayhap we might rejoice tomorrow. If you do not mind, we can speak as we break our fast together? At the third bell, then?”

Imrahil and Mithrandir both raised eyebrows at the coolness of the Steward, but both nodded and made to leave. Imrahil stopped and looked back at Faramir. "Your reports were excellent. Congratulations! And to you also, Boromir. You held yourself well against your seniors.”

Both boys smiled as their uncle left the room. Boromir stood and walked to the sideboard, pouring himself another glass of wine. He looked to Denethor, but his father shook his head. Boromir turned to Faramir. “I do not think, little brother, that you should have anymore. In fact, I think you best get yourself back to your bed before the healers come searching for you. Are you well? You look tired.”

“I am fine. I would not have missed that last moment for all the tea in Harad! But I am tired. Father,” he turned towards Denethor, “by your leave, I would retire.”

Denethor nodded, hardly acknowledging the man. He was deep in thought.

Faramir looked quizzically at Boromir, who shrugged, embraced him and shooed him out the door.

Sitting back on the settle with a fresh glass of wine, he waited. He was familiar with this mood that was upon his father, but could not surmise the why of it. All had gone as they had planned. "The Councilors saw the incontestable logic of what we presented. They had no choice but to accept. Is this not what you wanted accomplished?”

“It is. It is. I am tired, Boromir. The festival is tomorrow and I would spend some time tonight in peace and rest. If you do not mind, I will see you on the morrow.”

Boromir emptied his glass, watching his father over the rim. At last, he stood and embraced him. “Rest then, Father. If you need me… well, I will see you at the third bell.” He stepped away from the unreturned embrace, turned and left the room.

Denethor could see his son’s shoulders slump, and he wanted to say something; however, the feeling of betrayal sat in his stomach and made him nauseous. He waited until Boromir left, then turned and walked to Finduilas’ garden. Despite the early autumn heat, he pulled his cloak tightly about him. A shiver ran through him as tears fell.

He saw before him another meeting in the very study he had just left, the study that had been his own father’s, Ecthelion’s, before he died. There stood his father, Thorongil, Adrahil, and Mithrandir. All talking animatedly about a Council just adjourned. He stood in the background, as was his want when these men met. He felt a third thumb. They did not include him in their excited talk of the victory they had just won. They had not listened when he had addressed them before the meeting, airing his concerns about the proposal. Now, they did not even acknowledge his presence. He bit his lip and walked quietly away. None noticed.

He held his sides, weeping in disbelief. The same had now happened. His own sons had aligned with the wizard against him. Nay, he shook his head. It is not the same. My sons love me, unlike my father. They would not betray me nor collude with the enemy. They did what they felt they needed to do to attain his goals. He kept telling himself that, over and over, until his head ached, but his heart only felt the pain of that meeting so very long ago.

At that time, he had had Finduilas to turn to for succor and support. He needed her so desperately. Though she was now gone from him these past thirty years, the pain of her absence still ran through his veins. He left the garden and strode towards the upper room.

Húrin stepped into his path. “I am sorry to disturb you at this late hour, my Lord Denethor,” the Warden of the Keys began, “but Lord Amandil has taken ill. Siriondil requests your presence in the Councilor’s quarters.”

Denethor’s lips pursed. Eventually, he nodded. “Take me there.”

As they walked, Húrin’s enthusiasm flared. “I have never seen Boromir so animated. His thrusts and parries against all naysayers were astounding. Did you grill him beforehand? You must have! Very good idea. You must be proud. I, as a member of the House of Húrin, am!”

Denethor grumbled and Húrin knew better than to speak again. They reached the quarters assigned to Lord Amandil and the guard opened the doors.

Siriondil met them as they moved towards the sick man’s room. “I am not quite certain of what the matter might be. He does not seem as ill as he says he is. Mayhap something he ate tonight? I am baffled. In fact, I might even say he was…” the healer blushed, “faking an illness.”

Denethor’s brow raised and a small smile touched the corners of his mouth. “Faking? Well, I will let you know. Stay here and I will see him alone.” He strode into the room and sat on a chair next to the bed. Amandil made as if to rise, but Denethor motioned for him to remain still. The obvious show of weakness was not lost upon the Steward. However, he bowed his head. “I am most distressed to hear of this sudden illness, Lord Amandil. You looked well enough at the Council meeting. My Master Healer thinks you are quite ill though. If there is aught I can do for you?”

“My Lord Denethor. It does my heart good to see you here. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your concern. It is only a little thing,” he coughed gently. “I am getting on in years, you know. The trip was long, perhaps more tiring than I had thought. Another week or maybe even a fortnight of your hospitality should help.” Another gentle cough.

The man closed his eyes and missed the smirk on Denethor’s face. “A fortnight at least, my Lord Amandil. And your granddaughter and niece will stay also. Nay!” he put up his hand to stay the protest. “I cannot let them travel home alone. Without you as their escort and chaperone. It would be unseemly.”

“I had not thought of that, but I see you speak wisely, as always,” the man acquiesced.

“Then it will be done. You will remain here in Minas Tirith along with your young charges for the next fortnight at least. It is a shame, however, that Boromir will not be available to show the women our fair City. He is due to leave tomorrow for an inspection of Osgiliath. Ah! How I wish I had known earlier that you would be staying; I would have arranged his schedule differently.”

The old lord’s obvious disappointment tickled Denethor, but none looking at the sorrow on the Steward’s face would ever know it. “If you would permit my Warden, Húrin, to accompany the women during your convalescence?”

Amandil closed his eyes in consternation. “As you wish it, my Lord Steward. However, I am beginning to feel better. The teas your wonderful healer gave me seem to be dispelling the illness. I think we will leave in the morning after all.”

Denethor had to clench every sinew in his body not to burst forth in laughter. At last, feigning distress at Amandil’s decision, he bowed and left the man. He waved to Siriondil and, without a word, left the old lord’s chambers. Once outside, he strode rapidly to the parapet and leaned upon it. Tears filled his eyes and a great shout exploded from him.

Húrin, who had run after him in concern, stepped forward. “My Lord Steward. Is the news that dire? Is Lord Amandil near death?” Again another shout ripped from Denethor. His shoulders began to shake as the laughter finally found an escape. Húrin misunderstood. “Oh, Denethor. I did not know you were so close to Amandil. He is dying then?” He sat on a nearby marble bench and bent his head in sorrow.

“Nay,” Denethor gasped between silent laughter. “He is well and a curmudgeon. He thought to trick me into giving Boromir to one of his family. He feigned illness! I am still astounded at his effrontery!” He sat next to his Warden. “When I was young, I do not know if you remember, he wanted me to marry his daughter. His political needs have yet to be fulfilled. He is well, Húrin, and will be returning to Pelargir with his whole entourage tomorrow. But thank you for your kindness towards him. You are too good.”

Húrin lifted his head. “I am not. My only concern was for you, Denethor. I love you as a son.”

Denethor stared at the man. True, Húrin was older than he was, and related, but he had never felt anything towards the man, except respect for his knowledge of Gondor and its needs. “Thank you, Húrin. I will remember that. I thought I was tired before; now, I am exhausted. I will see you at the third bell.”

Húrin nodded as the Steward left. He sat back, sadness still filling his eyes. ‘He looks older than I do.’



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56.

“Nay.” Boromir’s tone was quiet, hurt, angry, frustrated; he felt defeated.

“Whether you agree or no,” Denethor whispered, “it cannot be helped.”

“When will you tell him? When will he leave?”

“He is on his way here now. His assignment begins tomorrow. I waited until you returned from Osgiliath.”

Boromir took in a deep breath. “I do not want to be here when you tell him. I will leave you alone. He should learn it without my doubt filling the air.”

“I would that you would stay. Fight your doubt. Be strong for him.”

Boromir shivered and it broke Denethor’s heart. “I have never been strong when you send him… He is still a boy, in my eyes.”

“As you both are in mine. Yet, it cannot be helped. What am I to do, Boromir? It is the way of a father. Encourage his sons, teach them everything he can and then… send them out.” He shivered himself.

“We will all die, will we not?”

“All men die, Boromir.”

“At thirty-five?”

“You said he would die if given the captaincy of Osgiliath. Yet, he did not.”

“He never took the captaincy, as you well know.”

“There was the ambush in Ithilien, Dol Amroth, and then the fever… he still lives.”

“Are you listing how many times he has been saved? The odds makers would not look kindly at such a wager.”

“I myself should not be alive, if one looks at odds, Boromir. Why are you so distraught? He is well trained. You had a hand in that, not only with the lessons you gave him, but also with choosing the best masters in each discipline. He is second only to you. I can no longer best either of you.”

“He was to be my Councilor, not my Captain-General. Mithrandir says that if you have a great jewel, you should guard it with your life.”

“Mithrandir?”

“I have met with him. And with Faramir. He is looking for something in the library. Spends most of his time there.” Boromir looked up in surprise. “Do not change the subject, Father. I am not one of your lackeys, witless to your wiles.”

Denethor’s eyes blazed. “You are my Captain-General. This order has been expected. In fact,” and Denethor paused for a moment, “you will give the order. It is only fitting.”

Boromir stood and roared. “Now you give me leave to order the men about! Now you deem me the commander of your armies! Now you… Ever have I asked for the full authority of my station and ever have you denied me.” His hand clenched upon his sword’s hilt. “I will give the command. I will give the promotion to Faramir. I will watch as he rides to what will likely be the place of his death, but you will not have me command him any further than that. I swear by the Valar, I will not send him to his death. I will send Damrod and Mablung with him to shadow him, whether he likes it or no. I am the one who will die, if one of us must; I will not let Faramir die.” He saluted Denethor and left the room.

Faramir was just coming up the steps. Boromir took his arm and led him away. The younger man saw the rage in his brother’s eyes and stilled any questions. They would be answered in due time.

Boromir walked to the stables and ordered two horses saddled. He sent a boy to the kitchens; by the time the horses were ready, a pack filled with food was brought to him. He hitched it to the back of his stallion and jumped on. Silently he nodded and Faramir mounted the second horse.

Slowly, they made their way to the First Level. At the Great Gate, the last password was given and Boromir spurred his horse into a gallop before the gate was fully opened. Faramir shook his head and followed, trying to catch up to the fury that rode ahead of him.

They rode hard for a quarter of an hour, then Boromir pulled back on his reins and slowed the horse. Faramir waited, hoping that whatever had caused this flight from their father would be explained. But no such explanation was at hand. At least, not yet. Boromir indeed slowed his horse to a walk, but he refused to answer any of Faramir’s questions.

Faramir saw Boromir’s shoulders square and realized that his brother had come to the end of a long and difficult battle within himself. A small sad smile crossed his face. He loved his brother beyond any thought or reason, but knew him too well. Either another marriage was in the offing, probably to one of Lord Amandil’s kin, or Faramir was to be stationed… A quick sudden shudder racked his body. It was about him! He was going to be stationed somewhere and Boromir was afraid for him. For a moment he wondered. Osgiliath? Nay, that had already been discussed and Boromir had not reacted this violently to such a posting. Henneth-Annûn. So he was being sent to the secret fortress in Ithilien. He pulled his horse up. He would not let Boromir suffer needlessly.

His brother turned in surprise when he realized Faramir was not riding next to him. “I did not order a halt.”

His voice was taut and gruff, as if he had been… Faramir shook his head. “It is useless, Boromir. I know what father wants of me. Let us sit and spend some time together. It may be the last for a long time. I do not want my last moments with you spent looking at your back.”

Boromir lowered his head in defeat. “Ride just a little further. There is a stream nearby. I thought we might share our meal there. Once, we fished there, just you and I.”

Faramir could see that Boromir was miserable. He rode with him for another quarter hour and then turned off the road as Boromir led them to a stream. He smiled as he recalled where they were. “I think this is the stream I fell into when we fished it,” he chuckled quietly.

“The same one.”

Faramir shrugged at the non-committal reply. “What have you got for us?” he asked once he dismounted. Boromir handed him the pack. Faramir pursed his lips. So, his brother was going to be tight-lipped still. He rummaged through the victuals and found two honeyed biscuits. He broke one in half and popped it in his mouth.

“That was dessert,” Boromir stated dryly.

“It matters not if I eat it first or last. It still tastes good.”

A chuckle escaped.

Faramir smiled. Good! If anyone knew how to make Boromir laugh, he could. “I refuse to fall into the water again, just to give you a laugh.”

Boromir merely sat by the stream’s edge. He shook his head in dismay. “There is no time for laughter today, little brother.”

“I think that is the problem.”

“What?” Boromir asked in consternation.

“You continue to call me little brother and yet we are the same height, though you might be broader by a tad. I think you should call me Faramir from now on.”

Sorrow engulfed Boromir and he hung his head. “You will always be my little brother. It has nothing to do with size.” The elder brother held his chin in his hands, his elbows dug into his knees.

“Boromir, do you have such little faith in me?”

At that, his older brother looked up. “It is Orcs I have faith in. Shall I tell you of the last battles I saw? Shall… Never mind. You have seen the same.”

“I will make you a promise, big brother.” Faramir smiled and changed his tactics. “When we fish, how often do we catch one?”

Boromir smiled. “Not as often as I would wish. You best me most times.”

“We can fish whole days and never catch one. I will be like those fish, Boromir, I promise. I will watch and not take the bait offered. I will hide in eddies and pools, hide in their shadows so none can find me. I will listen to the voice that you have put within me and focus on where I am and what I am about. I will not fail you.”

“Oh, Faramir! It has naught to do with failure. Do we speak of a dead warrior as having failed because he is dead? Nay. I would not think such of you. I need you. It is as simple as that. I need your friendship and your love and your support. I need to know there is someone who waits for me and hopes I will return.”

“Father does.”

Boromir shivered. “There are times… Father has succumbed to Gondor. I think he only loves her.”

“He loves you.”

“Because I can protect Gondor, at least for the nonce.”

“That is not the only reason, Boromir.”

“It is because I am a great warrior who will take over the Stewardship when he dies. The one who, he hopes, will save Gondor.”

Faramir was silent. “I will help you, Boromir. I will keep the enemy harried in Ithilien. They will be so busy fighting my Rangers and me, they will not have time to put a plan into action, nor listen to - ”

“Say it not, Faramir! Father says the Enemy sees more than we will ever know. I think it best not to challenge him.”

“I will not, Boromir. But I will not make it easy for him. Let us vow to meet once a month, if possible. Perhaps at Osgiliath? What think you of that?”

“A fair plan, if father does not put obstacles before us. The last day of Hísimë?”

“A good date. I will see you in Osgiliath then. And I expect a bottle of one of father’s choicest wines.”

Boromir laughed. “It will be done.”

~*~

A/N - Hísimë would run between 22 October and 20 November.http://www.glyphweb.com/arda/h/hisime.html