A Life More Ordinary - Part Five: Brothers
Since these stories are set after the War of the Ring, it becomes difficult to write about Boromir in this context as part of the Fellowship. So I will write this from the point of view of Faramir, using his memories of his brother as the basis of this story. While I have tried to write the other stories in this series with some humor, in the case Boromir, I have decided to take a different tone. This will be somewhat bitter sweet.
He hated this day.
It was not as if it was the first time he had to endure it, or even the second. It had been quite a number of years since this annual ritual had begun and still Faramir, Lord of Lord of Emyn Arnen, Prince of Ithilien found it as difficult to tolerate, as it was the first. The irony of it was, he himself had begun the practice. When the War of the Ring had ended, his life, as he knew it had changed so dramatically, that he had been left rudderless for a time. For so many years, he knew who he was and what life expected of him. It was very comforting to have no illusions about what lay ahead in the future and though Faramir had sometimes wished that certain elements of his life were different, he was mostly comfortable with what had to be.
Then Boromir died and everything changed.
The death of his brother had more effect upon his life then even the return of Gondor's king. The loss of the Stewardship was incidental next to and it was to his good fortune that the king was a man worthy of his respect and his unswerving loyalty. However much of Faramir's affection for Aragorn stemmed from the fact he reminded Faramir a great deal of his fallen brother. They both had the same dedication to Gondor and feared not the responsibility that came with being in power but embraced it as a sacred charge. He knew on some level, Aragorn felt responsible for him too as if by living while Boromir died, he was bound to protect to Faramir.
Their friendship had become what it was because of this duty and in the years since Aragorn had become king, it had deepened in substance to be more then either would have imagined. Aragorn could march into a thousand wars and Faramir knew without doubt, that he would be marching right alongside him on every one of those occasions. Still Aragorn's friendship could not take the place of the brother who had fallen before the war had even begun. It stung to no that Boromir was apart of none of the world changing events that transpired with the War of the Ring, especially when Boromir had battled Mordor for so long and deserved to be present when Sauron finally fell.
So now he was faced with yet another anniversary of Boromir's fall at Parth Galen, trying to untangle the knots inside his stomach enough so that he could see the day through without too much emotional torment. He had thought the years would make it easier but the prosperity of his life brought to home how much of it was due to his brother's death and thus served to renew the pain of his loss.
There was a pattern to his guilt that was as steeped in ritual as the reverence paid to Boromir during the anniversary of his death. It had become so ingrained into him that there was no avoiding it and even Eowyn, his wife had learnt that there were no words to say that could break this cycle of sadness that come upon her husband annually. He noticed that she ensured that she was never far from their home whenever this day came upon them and he loved her even more for it. He wished he could shake the feeling of sadness that seeped into him from the moment he awoke until he went to sleep again that night because Boromir himself would have no patience with his guilt. However, whenever such logical thoughts assailed him, Faramir would counter with the argument that if Boromir were here, everything would be different.
He would not be here playing at being Lord of Emyn Arnen, Prince of Ithilien and more precisely the Steward of Gondor.
Even now, the knowledge that he was Steward of Gondor bothered him more than he would care to admit. In truth, the title was obsolete since the king's return. These days, it was merely obligatory; a thoughtful keepsake Aragorn had allowed Faramir in deference to those who had protected Gondor before his return. The power of the Ruling Stewards had ended when his father Denethor had passed into the next world, bringing an end to a tradition that began with the death of King Eärnur and the establishment of Mardil Voronwë as the first Steward.
He was never supposed to lay claim to that title. All of Gondor knew it, perhaps even those who now lived under his protection in Ithilien. To them, he was the wild card that was never expected to be played. Before the return of the king, Gondor's expectations of the Stewards and himself for that matter had been very precise. He was the younger son that was doomed to come second always, in the eyes of his people and his father. Denethor had never made it a secret with whom his favor lay and despite Faramir's bitter disappointment at never being able to measure up to his father's expectations, deep inside him he knew that Denethor had good reason for his choice. Boromir had always been better than he.
Existing in his brother's shadow, even now, was something that Faramir had become accustomed to from the earliest memories of his life. In truth, Faramir could not blame everyone for thinking so highly of his brother when he himself, would feel awe in Boromir's presence. They were five years apart in age but by the time he grew old enough to understand his situation in life, his brother was already on his way to becoming a great warrior. In those early years at least, Faramir drew comfort from their mother but Finduilas had passed on when he was but six years old and by then Denethor had already chosen his favorite between the two boys.
And it was clearly not Faramir.
A lesser man might have taken advantage of this state of affairs but Boromir did not. As boys, they were close because their father as a great a ruler as he was, was not an affectionate man. In their childhood, it was their mother who provided the warm embraces and the soft words that only a mother could say to make all ills fade. But when she was gone, he was only six years old to Boromir's eleven and they had loved their mother very much. Aware perhaps of how her husband could be, she had raised Boromir to always cherish his brother, to protect him, though she never said from his father. Still Boromir despite his warrior heart, had more compassion than most would think it possible and it was easy for him to reach that understanding without her speaking the words.
"Are you awake?" He heard Eowyn's drowsy voice asking him as she rolled over in their bed, draping an arm around him as she snuggled closer.
"Yes," he said with a little smile, feeling her nuzzle against his neck as she drew nearer to him.
The room was cold as always, an unfortunate side effect of living in the mountains. Although there was usually a fireplace to warm its confines, the flame from last night's burning had dwindled into nothingness, leaving behind cold ashes in its wake. Eventually a servant would arrive to re-ignite the fire but none would dare invade the sanctity of their lord's bedchamber without first being asked. Thus in the meantime, the only warmth that either of them could feel was with each other. Faramir was not about to complain.
"Are you all right?" she asked gently, her voice little more then a murmur for she was not entirely awake yet.
"I will live," he remarked clutching her hand in his and holding it tight against his chest, "it is just one day."
"I know," she said softly, "I just want you to know that I am here for you if you need me."
A little smile stole across his face as his heart swelled in love for his wife, prompting him to roll over so that he could look at her. It never ceased to astound him that a creature such as she could ever be his. He stared at Eowyn, basking in the sight of her golden hair framing her lovely face in an unruly tangle, the heavy lidded look of sleep that made her looked alluring and the scent of her that lingered on the sheets.
"What are you looking at?" Eowyn asked when her lids fluttered open and she caught him staring at her.
"At you," he answered, his eyes dancing with affection. "I love you with all my heart, have I told you that of late?"
Eowyn's face melted into a smile, "not since last night."
"That is far too long," he replied and leaned over to kiss her gently on the lips.
"You are a such a romantic," she laughed when he pulled away a moment later.
"Well one of us has to be," he teased. "Leave it to you and all we will ever do is talk of swords."
"Well one of us has to know about them," she winked playfully before her expression became sober again. "Are you certain you are alright? I know how difficult this day is for you."
"It is difficult but you being by my side helps a great deal," Faramir replied sincerely and was rewarded by another beautiful smile.
"Let us go for a ride today," she suggested, propping herself up on an elbow as she grew more awake. "The hills are lovely at this time of the year."
"Are you attempting to distract me?" He stared at her.
"It depends," Eowyn said coyly, not at all guilty that she had been caught out in her efforts to sooth her lord's passage through this day.
"Upon whether it has succeeded," she smiled.
"It did," he laughed even though they both knew that no amusement or distraction could make him forget what day it was. "I think I should like to escape these walls today. Perhaps a ride will make this day go faster."
However, even as he said those words, he knew that he was lying. Nothing would make this day go fast, no matter how much he deluded himself into thinking otherwise. It reminded him too much of another day, long ago when he had wished another day would go past quickly and was disappointed that it had not.
It was his birthday.
He was nine years old. It should have been a day to celebrate but Faramir was not about to delude himself that the occasion was going to be anything but uncomfortable, bordering on downright unpleasant. For the last three years since his mother had died, he had been existing with the purpose of never falling under his father's gaze for too long. In his youthful mind, being noticed by Denethor was not entirely a good thing. When his father did deign to cast his eyes in Faramir's direction, it was often to point out how lacking he was in comparison to his brother. Unfortunately, hiding away with his books on this occasion was not even a remote possibility. Apparently, his father had remembered his birthday and summoned him to throne room.
It should have pleased him that Denethor had remembered the occasion but for some reason he could not explain, Faramir was filled with trepidation. He approached the dais, upon which the empty throne sat, waiting for Gondor's king while his father, who was all but a king, sat on a simple black chair of stone at the foot of it. He would have been completely terrified if not for the fact that Boromir was present. His brother stood at Denethor's side, a little smile of encouragement on his face because he knew how things were between the younger son and his father. Boromir was fourteen years old but already, he was tall enough to be considered older. His limbs were beginning to fill out and there was no doubt that when the time came, he would be a great warrior for his people.
Faramir felt his anxiety ease a little as he reached Denethor, certain he could endure what was coming at knowing his brother was nearby. Denethor's eyes studied him like the hawk studies a nestling will never fly and Faramir could not help but flinch under his deep scrutiny. Bowing his head and offering Denethor all the civilities that was expected of son by his father and more importantly by the Ruling Steward, Faramir waited in growing uneasiness to be addressed.
"You are nine years old today," Denethor remarked with a smile but his eyes were hard as flint. "I would have celebrated the day but your brother tells me you would detest the fanfare."
"Yes Sir," he said quietly.
"It is unfortunate that you do not socialize more," Denethor added. "A prince who will not rule should at least be a favorite of his people. You will not be able to do that cloistered in your room with only books for company."
"I am sorry," Faramir stammered, uncertain of what to say.
His apology clearly irked Denethor but the Steward made no comment upon it. "I have decided that it is time you begin your instruction. Starting tomorrow, you will be instructed in the use of the sword and how to ride. Theoden has sent me one of his best horse masters to teach you."
The idea of riding was somewhat disconcerting to Faramir. Gondorians were not accustomed to horses as the people of Rohan. As far as he knew, horses were the purview of errand riders, not young lords who could barely reach a stirrup let alone attempt to mount a saddle.
"I do not wish to ride," Faramir spoke before he thought, fear loosening his tongue to speak his mind.
"It is nothing to be afraid of," Boromir interjected quickly before his father could say anything, hoping that Denethor would let the remark slide. "Your tutor knows his craft and he will show you that they are merely beasts to do our bidding, nothing more."
Unfortunately, that was not the end of it as Boromir hoped and Denethor's voice soon responded sharply, "you are the son of the Steward and you will learn to ride. If you brother could manage it, I do not see why you cannot."
Faramir felt a knife slice through his heart at those words. He had heard them so many times before, that inevitable comparison, and thought himself inured to it by now but each time the words were spoken anew, the words cut just as deeply as the first time.
"I will do my best," he said meekly unable to look his father in the eye because Denethor would know that he was almost on the verge of tears and showing that much weakness to his father was a humiliation he could not bear. He was already feeling ashamed that he was so terribly weak and wondered why again, he could not be like his brother so his father would love him more.
All this Boromir saw on his brother's face and if Faramir was in pain, then Boromir felt it equally so except his was laced with anger at his father's coldness.
"That is all that can be expected of you," Denethor remarked. "You may go."
Boromir watched Faramir's shoulder sag as he left the throne room. Against his side, Boromir's hands were knotting into fists. He did not speak as he watched Faramir disappear out of the room and reacted only after he and Denethor were alone again.
"Why do you do that to him father?" Boromir asked quietly.
"Do what to him?" Denethor's gaze met that of his first born.
"Make him feel as if he must live up to some ideal in order to gain your love?" Boromir stared hard at Denethor, anger had made him bold enough to speak his mind.
"I was aware of doing nothing of the kind," Denethor replied. "He is my son just as you are and he must learnt that there is a world beyond books. Gondor needs warriors, not scholars! Scholars will not defeat the Nameless One or the darkness of Mordor! That is the work of warriors. It is time he learnt that. You certainly did not have trouble doing so at his age."
"That is true, "Boromir left Denethor's side so that he might face his father. "I did not because my mother was still alive and what fears I had, she banished with her words of kindness and her love. Where are those things for Faramir father? Where? They do not come from you, that is for certain and I am not here enough to provide what you will not! He is just a boy and he is alone because you make him feel that way! What way is there for him but to retreat into his books? And I am not entirely convinced that it is a bad thing for warriors are not all merely about skill but also about intelligence. A thousand swords against the dark lord will do little in the greater scheme of things, you told me that. Perhaps in the end, it will be up to the scholars to end the Nameless One's dark reign."
"Perhaps you are right," Denethor replied, feeling some sliver of guilt in his dealings with his younger son. "He is like his mother and not at all like you. I do not know what is always the best way to treat him."
"With love father," Boromir remarked sharply, picking up the gleaming sword sheathed in its new scabbard resting next to Denethor's seat, "that is all."
"Where are you going?" Denethor asked as Boromir stormed away from his presence, not even asking to be dismissed.
"To give him his birthday present," Boromir said coldly, "the one you forgot to give him."
It did not take him long to find Faramir once he had left his father. His brother was a creature of habit and the place he often found solace after one of these episodes with their father was usually in the library. The library of Gondor was hardly a pristine place of learning since it was much neglected during Denethor's reign. The Steward had moved most of the important books into the treasury for his own private use and rarely visited the library any more . It did not surprise Boromir in the least that Faramir would hide within the walls of its dusty confines because it was almost as forgotten by Denethor as he was. Boromir stepped into the room and wondered how Faramir could endure the musty smell of old paper that greeted him upon his entry. He rubbed his nose instinctively and searched through the shelves of leather bound books and rolled parchment scrolls, seeking his brother.
He knew Faramir was inside the library because he could hear the tell tale sounds of his brothers quiet tears. Once again, his heart ached in his chest, cursing his favor at having the share of his father's love that should have been for Faramir. It was precisely because Faramir reminded him so much of Finduilas that Boromir loved him so, though for his father, that quality was perceived as weakness not strength. Brushing the cobwebs aside, he followed the sounds of his brother's tears while being lead through the winding rows of bookcases by the fresh air flowing in through an open window.
"Faramir," Boromir called out as he approached, aware that it would embarrass his brother if he were to see his tears.
"Go away!" A tearful but angry voice returned promptly.
"Do you not want your birthday present?" Boromir asked, pausing just beyond sight of his brother. Without seeing where he was, Boromir knew that Faramir was most likely perched on the windowsill, overlooking the beauty of Minas Tirith below him as he wept his tears.
"No!" Faramir returned petulantly. "I do not want anything ever again!"
Boromir rolled his eyes and supposed that comforting someone was not always meant to be easy and he had played this role with Faramir too many times in the past three years to expect it to unfold any other way. "You do not have to be ashamed brother," Boromir said gently. "When I first rode a horse, I was afraid."
"You were not!" Faramir countered immediately. "I remember when you first learnt and you were not afraid at all!"
Boromir muttered under his breath, supposing he should thought a little more before using that example to show empathy for his brother "I was afraid but I did not show it."
"You are never afraid," Faramir replied softly. "Father knows that. That is why he loves you and hates me."
There was so much pain in those few words that Boromir let out a strained breath, trying to control his own emotions. As much as he loved his father, he was furious with Denethor for being so one sided and no matter much he tried to fight for Faramir, it only succeeded in deepening Denethor's favor because he appeared to be defender of the weak that the Steward needed him to be. He knew that Denethor did love Faramir but Denethor had a specific vision of how his son should be and at this point in time, Faramir did not meet that harsh standard.
"He does not hate you Faramir," Boromir stepped into the small alcove within which Faramir was taking refuge on the window. "He simply does not understand you."
Faramir had wiped away his tears but the redness of his cheeks and his eyes indicated that he had been crying. He did not meet his brother's gaze, perhaps being somewhat ashamed for being caught weeping like a little babe. Boromir pulled up a chair and sat down, wishing more than anything that their mother was here for she always knew how to dry their tears and soothed whatever pains they felt.
"I wish I was like you," Faramir swallowed. "I wish I was a great warrior."
"A great warrior?" Boromir snorted in amusement at that description. "I am an no more a warrior than you. At the moment, I follow the real warriors of Gondor and learnt from them. That is my whole existence, if I cannot hunt it, fight it or kill it, it is not worth knowing. My entire life is to learn to wage war, sometimes I think I prefer your books to so bloody a future."
"But you are so good at being a warrior," Faramir exclaimed with no small measure of bewilderment. While his father may be someone he feared and avoided, Boromir was another thing entirely. He fairly worshipped his older brother who was kind and brave and appeared unafraid of standing up to anyone or anything, even Denethor in his defense. "One day you will be Steward of Gondor, perhaps even a king."
"Steward is all that destiny will allow I am afraid to say," Boromir replied. "But I must learn just as you will must learn how to be a warrior. Father thinks that all you care of is books, that is not entirely true now is it?"
"No," Faramir shook his head. He would like to ride to far away places and fight terrible evils that he read about in books. He did not want his world to simply in the pages of this musty collection, he wanted a world beyond this room but he was a little afraid as well. "I would like to be learn how to fight and be a warrior as you."
"Well then you had better accept your present," Boromir retorted, producing the sword that had not been given to his brother earlier.
"My present?" Faramir looked up in interest.
"Father had it made for you," Boromir explained as he handed the weapon towards Faramir who was not curious enough to emerge from his place to take it.
Unlike the normal broadswords wielded by warriors of Gondor, the blade presented to Faramir resembled more a dagger than an actual sword. Its size was in order to let its master bear it easily and it was crafted by dwarf smiths who ensured that it was light enough for Faramir to wield. It was the perfect weapon for a child to use in his first instruction to become a swordsman. Faramir took the sword and removed it from the scabbard, staring at it with such fascination that Boromir knew at that instant that Denethor was terribly mistaken that all Faramir would ever be was a scholar. Though he did not know how to wield it with any measure of skill, he held the weapon like he could master it in time.
"What do you think?" Boromir asked as he saw Faramir draw it gingerly out of its scabbard.
"Father had this made for me?" Faramir asked, unable to believe that Denethor would expend the energy to acquire him such a gift.
"Yes," Boromir nodded. "He was rather surprised when I told him that you were not as lost in your books as he believed. Once he thought he might have another son who has a warrior spirit, there was nothing to stop him from ordering your gift made by the dwarfs. I think that is also part of the reason he wants you learn to ride a horse now, I doubted it ever occurred to him that you might want to learn."
"I do want to learn," Faramir admitted, "I am just a little afraid."
"Well then perhaps this day is not so entirely bad is it?" He cracked a smile and felt his heart warm when Faramir returned it with one of his own.
"He still likes you better," Faramir pointed out.
"He knows me better," Boromir countered, "perhaps we should help him get to know you as well."
Faramir seemed reluctant and preferred to concentrate on his gift by testing its weight in his hand and slashing at the air like he was a real swordsman.
"Faramir, I know he is a hard man but he must be," Boromir added in a more serious tone. "The Steward must be hard to protect all of Gondor from Mordor. The demon residing beyond the mountains has made him this way but that does not mean he loves you not. He simply finds it difficult to show it because he does not know you like I do."
"Nobody know me like you do Boromir," Faramir lowered the sword in his hand, "nobody at all."
"Come here," Boromir took a step towards him and gave him a warm embrace. "You are my brother and I will always protect you but you must learn to stand on your own. Your path is your own to walk Faramir, do not let father sway you from it if that is what you truly desire."
"I will," Faramir replied and then brandished his sword with a playful gleam in his eyes, "starting right this minute!"
"Oh you want to fight?" Boromir chuckled and drew his own sword, more than prepared to engage his brother in a mock battle, "I'll teach you to challenge me...!"
"Where are you?" He heard Eowyn's voice in his ear and turned to his wife who was astride her horse next to him.
"Right here with you," he answered, throwing her a warm smile as they continued their ride through the resplendent beauty of Emyn Arnen. It was summer and the heat of the day, tickled their skin with its sunshine. They were surrounded by the hills that made up the mountain range with the cascade of Henneth Annûn flowing in the distance. Eowyn had suggested they ride to his former refuge and Faramir could not deny that it was lovely enough to warrant the effort. His wife was taking great pains to see him through this day and he was not going to disappoint her by being anything less than enthusiastic.
"You seemed very far away then," she remarked.
"I was," he confessed because she could always see through him so easily. "I was thinking of my brother."
"On this day, that is hardly surprising," she replied sympathetically as they made their way through a grass covered knoll towards the trail leading through the hills, "you loved him a great deal."
"I did," Faramir nodded. "With my father's favor, he did not have to fight for me but he did and often. I wish he was still here, he deserves to be."
"He died doing what he did best, protecting the weak," Eowyn reminded. "What happened with the One Ring was not his fault."
"I know," Faramir nodded, knowing more about the One Ring then she did. He knew its power of seduction and how it would have tricked Boromir into thinking that acquiring it would be the way to save Gondor. Of all the terrible deeds that Sauron had been responsible, it was for that which Faramir hated him most, the corruption of his brother by that ***ed ring. "I wonder though how it would have been if he had lived. Would he have followed Aragorn as king if our father had opposed it?"
"I think he would have done what was best for Gondor," Eowyn answered without doubt.
For a second, Faramir did not speak, his face riddled with remorse she could not begin to understand. "It was hard knowing that he was dead, hearing that his need to protect me lead to his death. Until this day, I still believe I should have gone in his place. I understood Isildur's Bane far better than he did. I know what it was capable of from the times that Gandalf began studying the old texts, trying to discern the history and lore of the One Ring."
"You cannot blame yourself," she touched him arm gently, her eyes filled with worry that he might do just that.
"I do not blame myself but I should have gone. Hearing of his death was a blow that I never dared imagine for fear it would come true. But there was hardly time to mourn him with the Battle of Pelennor and that wound struck upon me by the beast of Angmar."
Hearing Faramir speak of the Witch King made Eowyn shudder slightly, even though she was the one who had killed the terrible creature in the end. In better times, Faramir had often joked that he had married her out of gratitude for killing the enemy that had almost ended his life. Yet there was no humor in his voice as he spoke now, words dripping with bitterness as well as sadness.
"When I awoke, I had lost everything, not merely my brother, but also my father and what I thought was my future," Faramir recounted quietly what it had been like to awake in the House of Healing and discover that he had lost his entire family. "In the face of such loss, I cannot help but think that if I had gone, everything would have been different."