Refuge - By Lady Wenham
Author's Notes: This is a companion piece to "The Stone and the Steward," but this story very much stands on its own. Do not feel as if you need to read TSatS to understand this story! Those of you who remember chapter four of TSatS will recognize a story Faramir tells Éowyn about his father. I have recreated Faramir's account in "real time" instead of a narrative flashback. It is told from Denethor's point of view. Beware--I have Acute DenethorSympathyItus, but I do think the man quite capable of cruelty. I have tried to portray his preference for Boromir in a subtle manner.
Finduilas died five years after Faramir was born. Because I wanted a younger Faramir in this story, he is four, but turns five later in the year. In other words, the timeline is still correct. It just assumes his birthday fell after his mother's death, during the same year. Boromir is ten-years-old in this story.
Many, many heartfelt thanks to Clarion, who took the time to proofread my story.
By Lady Wenham
A deep silence was upon Minas Tirith that I had not witnessed since my father's passing. My wife was dearly loved in life, and her memory would be cherished in death. The City would not easily forget the selfless kindness of Finduilas. Nor would I.
But Finduilas was dead, and my children were not. My eldest in particular seemed in need of my attention. Boromir appeared quite preoccupied when in my company. His tutors were unsatisfied with his performance in lessons. Usually bright and joyful, my son had slowly become withdrawn and melancholy. But the boy had just lost his mother, and I was not harsh with him.
Truth be told, I blamed myself, in part, for his uncharacteristic behavior. Immediately after the death of Finduilas, I took Boromir and Faramir aside and requested something quite difficult. Since many important officials were present at the funeral, I asked my sons not to grieve publicly for their mother. Perhaps it was a cruel thing to demand, but I did it for their sake. I would not have them perceived as weak by any account. They would understand one day, when they were older. When you were born into nobility, political matters outweighed personal affairs.
Concerned for Boromir's well being, I went to him in private late one evening. I found my eldest in his room, perched upon the windowsill, a book forgotten in his lap as he stared at the moonlit horizon. "What are you reading?" I asked, stepping into the room.
Boromir's raven head turned quickly. "A book of war strategies, father. Uncle Imrahil brought it for me to study."
"A fine choice," I declared proudly, "but you seem distracted from your studies. Is there any particular reason why?"
"I am fine," he answered slowly, his eyes hesitantly lifting to meet my scrutinizing gaze.
"So you tell me each and every day, but your countenance says otherwise." At this, Boromir closed his book and descended from the windowsill. His shoulders were visibly tense; his gaze fell to the ground. "Why don't you share what has been troubling you so," I said, placing my hands on his small shoulders.
He bit his lip, seeming to inwardly debate something. "If you must know," he replied after a moment, "I worry for Faramir."
"What do you mean?" I asked. Suddenly my mind filled with thoughts of my youngest, and I looked about the room as if expecting to find him hiding in the corner. Worry filled my heart when I did not see any sign of his painfully young face. Where was the boy? I could not recall seeing him the entire span of the day.
"You told us not to grieve for mother," Boromir said apologetically, though not without a small amount of accusation behind the words.
"Yes, I did, and for a good reason," I snapped defensively. "You and Faramir may grieve for your mother in private. Surely you realize that."
"I know that, yes," Boromir answered, "but I don't think Faramir understands at all."
I shook my head slowly. "Your brother is more perceptive than you give him credit for. Perhaps he simply deals with such things in a different manner than you."
"Mother's funeral was over two weeks ago. Faramir has barely said a word since she died."
"Neither have you," I gently reminded him.
"It is not the same, father," he said with such sincerity, a new twinge of worry pierced my heart.
"Where is your brother?"
"I do not know. I looked for him this afternoon after my lessons but could not find him." Boromir glanced at me cautiously. "Tomorrow is his birthday. He will be five. I don't think he remembers."
"His birthday, yes," I muttered guiltily. "I admit I have forgotten about it as well. Things have been in such upheaval here. You are a good boy, Boromir, to care for your brother so. He will need you now more than ever, you know."
"Can I help you find him?" he asked hopefully.
Ruffling the child's hair fondly, I nodded and together we stepped into the hallway. "I will check the rest of the house. Will you cover the grounds outside?"
"Yes, sir!" he cried, his eyes shining bright. In a flash, he was gone. I smiled and breathed a sigh of relief, for I had just witnessed the first glimpse of Boromir's true nature since his mother had passed away. If the child found purpose in caring for his younger brother, I would not deny him the opportunity. At least, for the present.
Silently I crept down the dark hallways of my home. Wherever Faramir was hiding, he had chosen his haven well. If this was any indication of his gifting for concealment, the boy would make a fine Ranger one day. I made a mental note to press him to try his hand at archery. Perhaps Faramir would like a bow for his birthday.
My steady pace stilled in the hallway when a slight noise caught my attention. Turning toward its source, I frowned deeply when my gaze fell upon the doorway of my late wife's sitting room. The muted sound of tiny gasps and sobs cut through the silence. Quickly, I opened the door and peered inside.
There I found him, huddled by the wall behind Finduilas' heavy armchair. His knees were gathered up to his chest, and his arms were wrapped tightly around his legs. Even though his head was resting on his knees and his face hidden from sight, it was obvious from his quaking shoulders that the child was weeping bitterly. Believe me when I say there is nothing that will break a father's heart faster than a child completely overcome with grief. It was a sight I had never seen.
"Faramir? What on earth . . . "
He looked up at me, his wide eyes overflowing with tears--and froze. Then his lower lip quivered slightly, and he let out a broken wail. A few unintelligible phrases followed, and somehow I managed to catch the words, "M'sorry, papa."
"Come out of there," I said, trying to reach him behind the heavy chair. He shied away from my grasp and let out another howl. Gathering what little patience I was gifted with in life, I did my best to speak to him in a calm voice. "I am not angry, Faramir. Now come out from behind there."
When I finally managed to get a grip on him, he curled up into a little ball when I lifted him into my arms. I could not see his face, for he immediately buried it in my robes. "Why do you hide, little one?" I asked. But, of course, I already knew, and my heart grew heavy with guilt at the thought. Gathering my weeping son closer, I sank down into the armchair as if pulled by some great weight within.
"M'sorry, papa," Faramir brokenly repeated over and over, his face pressed into my chest as if he was ashamed.
"Breathe, child," I murmured quietly into his hair. "Just breathe."
It took a long while, but eventually he did calm down. I rubbed his little back and waited for him to speak. I admit that this required no small amount of patience on my part, though I was deeply concerned for him. I was most relieved when his tears finally slowed into small hiccups. "There now," I said, smoothing hair away from his hot forehead. "You must feel better after all of that."
"I'm sorry," he said quietly, his words far more intelligible now that he was calm. "I couldn't help it."
"You could not help what?"
"You said not to cry," he explained, gripping my robes thoughtfully. "I tried not to. Honestly. Am . . . am I in trouble?"
"Look at me, Faramir." His large gray eyes reluctantly met my own, and he looked for all the world like a prisoner about to be dealt a life sentence. "Do you remember when I asked you and Boromir not to grieve for your mother?" I waited until he nodded before I continued. "I do not think you understood what I meant."
"What didn't I understand?" he asked fretfully, suddenly looking as though he was about to cry again.
"This is my fault," I assured him. "Not yours. I did not take the time to explain matters properly. When I asked you not to grieve, I meant for you not to do so in public, where others could see. Do you understand?"
He seemed momentarily puzzled, but slowly he worked it out in his mind. "It's not wrong to cry for mama?" he asked after a moment.
Something twisted urgently in my chest. "No, Faramir. It is not wrong."
His face fell, and his cheeks reddened. "Oh."
"None of that, now," I said, lifting his chin. "As I said, it was not your fault you did not understand. I am not angry, but I do not want you hiding anymore."
"I'm sorry, papa."
Before I could respond, footsteps sounded at the doorway, and I glanced up to see Boromir's anxious face. "You found him!" he said as he approached. Seemingly ashamed, Faramir drew away from his older brother, but Boromir was not easily deterred. After receiving my nod of approval, he lifted Faramir from my lap into his arms with practiced ease. "We were worried about you, Faramir. Have you been in mother's room all this time?"
Faramir muttered something into his brother's shoulder that I did not catch. Rising, I said, "He is quite tired. It is high time for him to be put to bed, I think."
The small mew of protest from Faramir was ignored as I led my boys through the darkened hallways. Boromir carried his brother instead of allowing him to walk. I forced myself to bite my tongue at Boromir's coddling. Perhaps a small amount would not hurt, under the circumstances. I admit that I felt quite guilty for not noticing Faramir's distress before now.
When we reached the bedroom, Boromir washed the tears from his brother's face as I pulled back his bedding. When Faramir was placed under the heavy quilt, I turned to my eldest. "I wish to speak with your brother alone for a while longer."
Boromir nodded reluctantly but obediently. "Goodnight, little brother. Sleep well."
"Night, Boromir," the little one responded sleepily, his eyelids already drooping.
I waited until the door closed before I turned towards Faramir and sat on the edge of his bed. He looked up at me tentatively, as if he still imagined that he was in trouble. "I will ask you again, Faramir," I began, "do you understand everything we have talked about?"
He nodded slowly as he rubbed his eyes. "I think so, papa."
"Good. And you will not hide from me again?"
"I hear that tomorrow is a very special day," I said with a smile. "Turning five is not something that happens very often. In fact, I have heard it said the event only happens once in a lifetime."
Faramir frowned and looked quite confused. "Tomorrow is my birthday," he said slowly after a moment.
And that, perhaps, was the most sobering thing of all. Boromir was correct in his assumptions. Caught in the cruel aftermath of his mother's death, Faramir had forgotten about his own birthday. My lips pressed together in a thin line, but I managed to keep smiling. "That is correct. And what is it that you would like?"
He knit his brow and bit his finger thoughtfully as he pondered the question. "What happened to mama's cloak?" he asked, looking up suddenly.
"Her blue mantle? Well, I am not certain. I suppose it is still with her things." I turned curious eyes towards him. "Why do you ask?"
"I would like to have it for my birthday, please," he requested hesitantly. "If it is all right with you, of course."
I paused in silence momentarily as memories of Finduilas flooded my mind. Looking down upon the child that so closely resembled her suddenly became quite painful, and I rose from Faramir's bed quickly. He was visibly confused by my abruptness. Quickly I asked, "That would please you?"
He nodded but seemed somewhat wounded. "Very much."
I bit back my disappointment that Faramir had not chosen something more to my taste. The intended bow, perhaps. Boromir, after all, requested his first training sword when he was Faramir's age. Under the circumstances, however, I did not press the matter.
"Then it is yours," I said hastily, desiring very much to be elsewhere. The appearance of my wife echoed in Faramir's face was too painful to behold, for the present. Still, when his eyes lit up with happiness at my words, I immediately felt relief wash over me. "It was quite special to your mother. You must promise me that you will take very good care of it."
"I promise. Thank you, papa."
"I will bring it to you tomorrow," I assured him. Pulling the covers up to his chin, I leaned down to kiss his forehead. "You are loved, Faramir."
"I love you, too, papa," he said, accepting my kiss and bestowing one of his own on my cheek.
Offering a final smile, which I admit was slightly forced, I blew out the candle and closed the door behind me as I departed. I leaned heavily against the wall outside his room and let out a slow breath. "I cannot raise them without you, Finduilas," I whispered, closing my eyes. "I do not know how."
She did not answer.
Never in my life had I felt so alone or inept. I could not feel the presence of my sons, though they were only footsteps away from where I stood. Opening tired eyes to gaze at my painfully empty home, I felt the beginnings of despair creep into my heart.
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