Young Boromir

by Varda

Chapter 7: A Lesson for Faramir

‘Where do you think you are going, Faramir?’ shouted Boromir.

His younger brother turned with a startled and guilty look, not expecting to
see Boromir up so early; Denethor did not spoil his sons and they still
shared a small room, and Faramir was aware that Boromir had slipped out
before midnight and had not returned to bed till dawn. Yet now he was awake
and alert as ever, striding quickly down the long high-ceilinged hall of the
White Tower, a mischievous grin on his face.

‘You weren’t planning to go riding, were you, little brother? You know
father has forbidden it..’ he asked in a level voice. Faramir looked at him
in dismay. Apart from dark rings under his eyes there was no sign that
Boromir had not slept. Faramir well remembered his father’s command; but he
missed bringing the horses their treats, and had slipped some windfall
apples and bread from the kitchens to take to the stables. He quickly hid
them behind his back and said;
‘No, I haven’t forgotten. I am not going riding….’
‘Then why have you a handful of apples?’
‘No I don’t’
‘Yes you do’
Boromir made a grab for the hand behind Faramir’s back and the younger boy
ducked away but Boromir was too quick and seized him. A good-natured tussle
followed, but Boromir, although still little more than a boy was stronger
than many grown men through constant practice with sword and bow. He easily
mastered Faramir and pinned his arms to his sides.
‘Yield, little warrior’ laughed Boromir.
‘No!’ said Faramir breathlessly.
‘Yield, or I will lock you in your room and the servants will have to let
you out…’

Faramir struggled uselessly for a few more seconds, then went limp in his
brother’s arms. He knew that Boromir would carry out any promise, even one
made in jest….

‘I yield’ he sighed. Boromir hugged his brother tightly to take away the
sting of conquest then released him with a smile and a hand gently tousling
Faramir’s fair hair.
‘A very wise lad you are, too. Now show me what you have in your hand.’
Faramir held out the apples. Boromir snorted triumphantly but his brother
said;
‘Yes, I am going to the stables, but not to take Dorcha out, just to give
her some tidbits. I have time, I do not have to attend on Gandalf in the
library until noon…’

Boromir looked down and saw his brother was holding three small apples and a
crust of bread. Dorcha, the Dark One, was Faramir’s small bay mare. Boromir
sighed.
‘These are war horses, Far, not pets. You gentle them too much. What if you
have to sacrifice them in battle? You should be tougher. We might have to
give up much in war, and be glad to, for the sake of Gondor….’

Faramir did not answer; Boromir had taken to saying things like this quite a
bit since he had begun weapons training in the barracks. He sighed; Denethor
said it to him as well, and Faramir began to see his father in his brother…
but then as if reading his mind Boromir put his arm round his shoulders and
said in a kindly voice;
‘Come, little brother. Father was too hard on you. I am in trouble again….’
Faramir looked up in alarm but Boromir laid a finger on his lips and said;
‘Ssshh, don’t worry, it is nothing important. But I want to be out of his
way, so I am taking Tréan out for exercise. Walk with me to the stables at
least….’

The streets of Minas Tirith were too steep and narrow for horses, and the
stables were situated in the lowest level of the city, the Quarter of the
Portcullis. Even the Steward’s horses were kept there, close to the city
gate. Faramir and Boromir, almost a head taller than his brother and
striking in his black Guards uniform, made their way through each of the
city gates, returning the salutes of the sentries, and along winding narrow
streets packed with morning crowds. On every level the people parted to let
them pass, recognising the Steward’s sons, admiring Boromir, their hope and
the hope of their city, and looking curiously at the younger boy at his
side, not yet admitted to public duties in Gondor, but a fair and popular
prince.

Faramir basked in the attention shown to his brother, for he loved and
idolised Boromir as well. He never seemed to have enough time with him any
more, and was sorry when they reached the prince’s stables and entered
through the high stone arch not far from the main city gate, which was open
on this bright winter morning. Through it Faramir saw the Pelennor, the safe
enclosed Pale of land around the city, glittering white with frost, and
yearned to take Dorcha out cantering across the fields…

But as the brothers entered the courtyard, other, more hostile eyes followed
their movements. Within the darkness of the stable archway Gallán turned to
Siamsa and said;
‘Here he is, he has his brother with him. But Faramir will not ride today,
he is forbidden to do so by Denethor.’ In the gloom of the stable Siamsa
nodded grimly. Gallán added;
‘Let’s do it now.’

Boromir’s horse was standing ready saddled in a stall beside them. The
prince had chosen the animal himself, and few others could ride him; he was
nearly two hands taller than Faramir’s Dorcha and full of fire and fight,
black as jet with a fine small head and large bright eyes. None of the other
horses in the prince’s stables could match him for speed, and Boromir had
named him Tréan, Champion.

The horse flicked his ears forward as the two strangers walked up to it, but
Siamsa spoke soothing words and rubbed his nose gently and he calmed down.
As he did so Gallán lifted the flap of the saddle and laid the tip of a
blackthorn branch between the leather and the saddle-cloth. Barbed with a
row of great curved thorns, the spiked twig would not penetrate the thick
blanket until the weight of a rider pressed on the saddle. Then the
needle-like thorns would pierce the horse’s back….

The grooms led out Tréan and Boromir pulled down the stirrup irons and
prepared to mount. He looked at Faramir, gazing sadly at him and said;
‘Don’t worry, little brother; father will soon let you return to your
morning gallop. In the meantime enjoy your studies with the Wizard.’ Then he
grinned wickedly and added;
‘Sooner you than me….’

He put his foot in the stirrup but just at that moment a messenger in the
livery of the White Tower ran through the gate and seeing Boromir he called
out;
‘My lord Boromir! Your father sends word you are to attend him in the Great
Hall at once…..’

Boromir groaned and his face fell. He had thought he was getting off too
easily…doubtless his father had found out from that informer Cág all that
had happened last night and now Denethor was furious. Boromir looked at his
brother and said with a shrug;
‘It looks like neither of us will get to do what we want, Far.’ He handed
the reins to him and added.
‘I must go at once. Take Tréan back to the stables and tell the grooms to
give him his exercise. Our horses will grow lazy, I think….’

Before Faramir could think of a reply his brother had clapped a hand on his
shoulder in farewell and strode off through the arched gateway accompanied
by the servant. Faramir looked after him wistfully, feeling in his chest the
familiar ache of love mixed with apprehension of what the world could do to
those one loved which he always experienced now when he looked at Boromir.

Impatiently he shook off his dark thoughts. He was still holding the reins
of the great warhorse. The charger’s dark flanks gleamed in the cold
sunlight, and it stamped restlessly, eager to be away out running under the
morning sky. Faramir wished for that too, and gently stroked its nose. He
took one of the little apples from his pocket and the horse nibbled it
daintily from his palm. A thought struck Faramir; his father was busy with
whatever trouble Boromir had got into this time. There was no-one around,
certainly none who would give him away. Why not take Tréan out for a short
gallop himself? He had never ridden the great horse, and knew it was hard to
control, but he felt a sudden stubborn desire to rival his brother. He was
not needed in the library till noon….he threw the reins onto the horse’s
neck and put a foot in the stirrup……

Faramir settled himself in the saddle and reached for the reins. As he took
them in his hand the great charger suddenly threw its head up and gathered
its powerful quarters under it and sprang forward in a mighty leap which
almost unseated Faramir. The reins tore from his grip rasping the skin
between his fingers. Under him he felt, through the leather of the cavalry
saddle, the horse tense and explode and the sky cartwheeled to the side as
he was half thrown from its back.

But Faramir was a skilled horseman too, and clinging to a wisp of mane he
righted himself in the saddle and hung on as the great horse plunged through
the stable archway and out through the City gate, down the winding stone
road to the Pelennor and on, scattering a train of packhorses as he went.
Galán and Siamsa ran out of the stable and gazed after him down the road.
Siamsa said in dismay;
‘We have snared the wrong fox…..’

Any hope Faramir had that the horse might settle down soon disappeared; it
appeared to become even more excited as it fled, and the city began to
recede and the Pelennor to unfold around them. Beneath the horse’s hooves, a
long way down it seemed to the young boy, the stony road flashed past, and
on either side a steep slope fell away. If he was thrown here he knew he
would be killed or crippled. He tried to pull up, but the reins were broken
and the horse’s head held too high. It seemed to quicken its pace even more,
and Faramir had to bend every muscle to remain on his back. His heart was
pounding and he fought to control his terror, but tears began to force
themselves from his eyes.

‘Boromir…!’ he gasped.