The Adventures of Laramir Pt. 7 (AU) - Passings
Faramir could not read, but this was all right because the boys of Minas Tirith didn't normally start their formal schooling until they were his age anyway. He was not as clever with numbers as his brother, and while he couldn't keep accounts, he was good with time: if he had to be back by lunchtime, how long he could walk before he had to turn back, and how far he could get in that time. Faramir's real love, however, was the world around him: the plants and the animals that had always lived on his father's farm. He could tell you from looking at a seed what plant would grow out of it, and what its leaves would look like. And by looking at foot prints he could tell you what kind of animal was, and more than that, when they were like to be about, in the summer or in the winter, and when they would have babies, because of course his father would not hunt them then. Yet he was to be brother of the Steward, not a wild man of the fields, and so he needed more 'cultured' knowledge. That's why he had to be tutored, to learn about the ancient Númenoreans and all the peoples descended from him, and in more general terms about elves and dwarves and the other free folk of the west that Men on occasion had dealings with.
Laramir learned from Dweinlunde much the same things as Faramir. This was fine when she was eight and he was seven, and the people of their father's court seemed to brush it aside. She just lost her mother, poor dear, some said. She'll grow out of these odd ways. Or, well she has no mother and hasn't for a year. She needs someone to show her how to be a girl. Why doesn't her father marry? But perhaps the most popular explanation was, It's that meddlesome wizard. He doesn't understand our ways, and has no right ruining the child. If he'd just let her be she'd settle down and develop some sense.
But as the years passed on people seemed less willing to look the other way. It would have been one thing, of course, if she had been an only child, and future Steward herself--though a woman had never been made Steward before, it was a distinct possibility. But now her cousin and brother Boromir was the heir, and there was no need for her to take on manly ways. Plenty of girls had no mothers for one reason or another, and they turned all right. And that wizard was seen less and less walking with Laramir in the squares of Minas Tirith: no excuse there.
That name, Laramir, was another bit of nonsense. At first people called her by it, and had a good chuckle, thinking it a childish fetish. But then she refused to answer to anything else. Now if someone meant business, if Laramir was in trouble, they would call her 'Mellawyn, child of Denethor'--she wouldn't answer to 'daughter of', even then. But when she wasn't in trouble she wouldn't even answer to Mellawyn. It was 'Laramir, son of Denethor,' and no one seemed to be able to break her of the habit.
Yet more years went on, and nature took its course in all things, not least of all Laramir. Back at Kaänawe's farm she wore loose, long skirts, torn about the knees and Boromir's old trousers under so she could run and climb trees, but back before in Minas Tirith she always wore dresses like all of the other girls her age, always in the finest fabrics--befitting the daughter of the Steward, of course, and no less would do. After she became Laramir, however, she refused to wear the dresses. She told her father that no one would believe she was a boy if her hair was long and she wore dresses all the time. So she cut her hair into a bob like Faramir's, and took on the slacks and tunic of the young boys of Minas Tirith.
This all worked fine until she began to develop. But as her body began to take on the shape of a woman, tongues began to wag. The pants were not only boyish, they were simply immodest. So her father tried to convince her to take on the skirt, but to no avail. By this time she had taken up the sword and found that she could not move around as well in a skirt as she could in pants. But what does a daughter of Gondor need with a sword? the wagging tongues asked. These questions and others made their through the Seventh Circle and filtered down all the way to the very outer walls of Minas Tirith. It seemed that every gossipy old woman, no matter what her class, found it necessary to discuss their private family matters in the streets, the shops, and the surrounding fields.
People believed that Mithrandir had let the girl alone at long last, for what he doubtless considered weightier matters. Perhaps they were, but he far from neglected the child. Many nights after all the people had gone to bed the sentry would see an old hooded man and a boy of the Steward's household sitting on the outer wall, looking at forgotten forests and talking. There they talked of old legends, and living beings who many believed to be nothing but legends: short people, wizards (other wizards; the people at Minas Tirith believed there couldn't possibly be another like the old man, if he was all he claimed!), walking trees and eagles with a sense of honor. Gondorians accepted that elves and dwarves had at one time existed, but had not heard from them in so long that if they still lived, surely they did not matter much to the modern man, save small troublesome pockets like those Kaänawe had found. But from the wandering wizard Laramir learned all their names, and where they supposedly lived far away.
She looked more and more a boy year by year, despite her more feminine body. And while most people couldn't blame the wizard for anything specific--the guards were the only one to see anything, and they couldn't tell any one outside the other guards what they saw while on duty, of course--they somehow sensed that something was horribly wrong, and that somehow this Gandalf was to blame.
And then the worst news came on all, that seemed to confirm it. Denethor had asked Mithrandir to take Laramir on a long journey, just the two of them, to the ancient woods near Rohan.