Young Boromir

by Varda

Chapter 4: The Spider's Web

Gandalf rolled up the belt of Glamdring’s scabbard and laid the great Elven
sword on the hard, narrow bed. He looked about the bare room but there was
no mirror in which to check his appearance; even in the guest quarters
Denethor did not encourage ostentation. Gandalf had washed away the mud and
dust of his journey and now wore a long tunic of black silk plain except for
embroidery in silver along the hem, and a finely wrought silver belt. Over
it, against the chill of the great halls of the Citadel, more fortress than
palace, he wore a surcoat of dark blue velvet lined with fur. He had combed
his long grey hair and tied it back with a piece of black silk. He sighed;
Denethor was a lord who insisted on ceremony, and when he held a feast in
one’s honour travel-stained grey robes had to be laid aside for more fitting
apparel…

Gandalf knew the Citadel well and strode down the long dark echoing
passageways until he reached the great oaken doors of the dining hall.
Guards swung the doors open and Gandalf walked in and bowed to Denethor, who
stood beside a great stone fireplace with spears, bearing battle-torn
pennants, mounted on the wall above it.

The Steward of Gondor had not taken his seat until his guest arrived but was
standing with a goblet of wine in his long thin hand, gazing into the fire
lost in thought. Seeing him by the light of the flames Gandalf thought that
he had aged a great deal since his last visit, that a weight seemed to be
bowing those shoulders once straight as any warrior’s. But Denethor turned
and his eyes were as black and hawklike as ever as he acknowledged Gandalf’s
bow and led him to the great long dining table.
‘You are welcome to Minas Tirith, Gandalf, and I regret that it has been so
long since your last visit….’

Denethor took his seat at the head of the long table, made of a jet black
wood brought up the Anduin river from the South. Its shining surface was
inlaid with Oliphaunt tusk in a pattern of a White Tree and Stars. The floor
was scattered with sweet-smelling river rushes and bearskins and on the far
wall hung a great tapestry depicting a boar hunt. Other than that, the room
was bare. Denethor had always maintained that the Stewards were soldiers not
princes, and his contempt for luxury was well known among his people. Yet he
courteously bade Gandalf be seated before he took his own place at the head
of the table.

Almost at once the doors opened again and in came two boys, who bowed low to
Gandalf, and then to their father, who gave them a curt nod. Gandalf had met
Boromir the eldest the day before, but now he had another chance to study
the heir to the Steward’s High Seat. He noticed again that he was almost a
grown man, tall and powerfully built. His long tawny hair was combed
carefully onto his shoulders and he wore a deep blue silk tunic belted with
gold. He had a proud, fair face and around his neck gleamed a silver
circlet. When he straightened up from bowing to his father’s guest his grey
eyes, direct and fearless, looked at Gandalf with a flicker of gratitude for
his intervention the day before…

Gandalf smiled back then Denethor said;.
‘My oldest son Boromir you have met, barging in where he should not have
been, but this is my youngest, Faramir….this is the lad who is in need of
your great store of learning, Gandalf….’

The wizard looked at the smaller boy and saw the excitement in his face as
he bowed. As often as he could Faramir stole time from his military
exercises to hide himself in the Library and pore over its great wealth of
books. To think that Gandalf himself would give him instruction in their
meaning…..

The wizard was studying the younger brother with almost as much interest as
the lad studied the wizard. Faramir was smaller than Boromir, and slighter.
Even allowing for the age difference he would not grow to be as powerfully
built. He too had long tawny hair, arrayed on the shoulders of a green
velvet tunic belted with a silver and amber belt, but his face was paler as
if he spent more time indoors, and had a gentle, reflective air. He followed
close behind Boromir and sat beside him as they took their places at the
table, but he had a less confident bearing…Gandalf became aware that
Denethor was gazing at his younger son sternly.

‘What did you do today, Faramir?’ he asked abruptly.
‘I went riding, father….’ Faramir replied. Denethor frowned.
‘By my reckoning that is three days together you have gone riding.’ He said
sharply
‘I know that on a winter’s morning when the frost is white on the Pelennor
and the hounds cry it is tempting to forsake sword practice for
horsemanship, but you must be equally versed in both. Attend to your weapons
practice and no more riding until I give you permission….’

Faramir flushed at the rebuke and his face fell. He practised assiduously
but he would never be the swordsman his brother was. What he loved most was
to steal into the warm dark stables at first light and feed morsels of bread
and apples to the horses, then lead one out to gallop under the winter dawn,
watching the larks fly…now he had to forego even that stolen joy. Under the
table he felt Boromir’s foot nudge his; he knew his brother, generous as
always, was commiserating with him. But he was too downcast to acknowledge
his sympathy.

As the roast meats and pastries, plentiful but plain, were brought to the
table, Denethor and Gandalf fell into conversation, only occasionally
referring to the two boys. The Wizard noted how Denethor, as was his way,
asked constantly for news, of North, South and West. Gandalf told all he
knew, his food almost growing cold as he satisfied the Steward’s desire for
information. At one stage Denethor pushed himself back in his great high
oaken chair and said, half to himself;

‘More! I need to know more….’
Gandalf answered;
‘My lord, why? Do you perceive some threat?’
‘Threat!’ cried Denethor. ‘Every year we are pushed back further west. Now
even our scouts fear to venture beyond Cair Andros. The Enemy is growing in
strength, Gandalf. I know not how, or why, but I fear what is to come…’

The Wizard nodded; he had seen the same on his travels in Middle Earth. But
before he could reply Denethor said;
‘If only I had an Eye, some way of seeing afar off, to let me know the
movements of mine enemies. Then, like a spider sitting in the centre of a
great web I could gather all knowledge to me, and I would be powerful beyond
measure…’
Gandalf was staring at Denethor. The Steward said to him;
‘Knowledge is power, Gandalf’. The wizard shook his head.
‘Knowledge is dangerous, Lord Steward, without the wisdom to use it…’
Denethor shook his head and snorted.

‘Wizards’ he growled. ‘always speaking in riddles, or bringing bad news…..I
wish for some way into my enemy’s mind, Gandalf. Can you give me such a
thing….?’

Even the small glass of wine Faramir had taken made him drowsy; it was a
long day the Steward imposed on his sons in order to make them skilled and
hardy soldiers. Faramir, still young, often fell asleep at table. But beside
him his brother had sneaked a second glass yet still gazed clear-eyed at the
Wizard and his father, driven by Gandalf’s presence to speak more than
Boromir had ever known him to…

‘I have the right,,’ his father was saying to Gandalf ‘to essay any means
that will keep my city safe.’
‘Any means?’ asked the wizard his grey bushy brows raised. ‘There are some
things, Denethor, we must not do, not even in a good cause…’
‘Gondor is not a good cause’ said Denethor, sarcasm in his voice ‘Gondor is
the ONLY cause…..’

Gandalf did not reply, and the words echoed away into silence. Faramir
roused himself from his doze, and looking sideways he saw Boromir’s face
transformed and his eyes blazing. For Boromir there was no other cause but
Gdonor..…

At length Denethor added, in a quiet tired voice.
‘I am discourteous, keeping you so late after such a long journey, but
sometimes great responsibility makes us careless of the needs of
others…pardon me, Gandalf.’
‘My lord..’ answered Gandalf getting to his feet. Denethor said.
‘I hope you rest well, good night….’ And without waiting for the wizard’s
reply he turned and walked from the hall, seemingly preoccupied with some
train of thought of his own..

Gandalf made his way back to his guest room, his head bowed as he pondered
Denethor's words. Something was amiss, but he could not define just what it
was. All he knew was that some great change had occurred in Denethor…he
paused his steps, then hurried on. A wizard had hearing even greater than an
Elf; someone was following him.

He had no sword, and the moonlight played on the frost riming the cobbles of
a small courtyard he was crossing. At the other side he stood quietly in a
doorway and after a few moments he saw the figure he expected, padding
lightly after him. He said out of the shadows;
‘Master Boromir! Was there something you wished to say to me?’

Boromir started, and stopped in his tracks. Then he collected himself and
stepped up to Gandalf. In the moonlight his face was anxious. He said in a
low voice.
‘I need your help, Master Gandalf…..’