MINAS TIRITH, GONDOR
Year: TA 3019
I sat at my son’s bedside, staring down into his feverish face, my pale hand gripping his own. I had nothing left to do, nothing more to accomplish in this world. I thought to sit here, and to wait, for the world to fall. Minas Tirith was lost. What use was anything anymore? My place here was with my son.
Why had I done it? I sent him out unthanked, unblessed, into needless danger, and here he lay dying before me, dying for a task that his brother would not have failed me on.
Dully, I drove that thought from my mind. Boromir was dead now, dead and long lost on the silver currents of the river Anduin. He would not come back to me. Long had I watched from the White Tower, waiting to see my favorite son come riding back, but he did not return.
So I sat here, bent over Faramir with my grief, waiting for it to come to an end. He would die, I was sure, for no one can live with the poison of the Black Riders in their veins.
“Why did you become so interested in books, and the teachings of Mithrandir?” I whispered down to him, knowing that he did not hear. “Why were you not more like your brother? I could have loved you better then. Perhaps it was my own failing, though, that I did not see you more.”
I touched his face. It was hot, burning with the fever that would consume him. Outside these secluded, stifling chambers, the battle raged on, back and forth, victories gained and losses suffered. I cared for none of it.
When was the last time that I smiled at him? I wondered. It was too late now, for he would never open his eyes again. When was the last time that I looked at him with a father’s proud gaze, not a warrior’s cool evaluation? I tried to remember, but it was hard. The memories were locked so deeply in my mind.
MINAS TIRITH, GONDOR
Year: TA 2991
The little boy sat alone in the courtyard, swinging his bare feet over the high wall. His mop of sandy-blonde curls hung in his eyes, and he pushed at them with all the impatience of youth. He played with a rock and bits of sticks, making a small tower from the bits of debris.
From the shadow of a doorway, his father watched him, smiling. His son was so young, but he thought that he would be a fine warrior, in the manner that his older son, Boromir, was already achieving. Walking forward, the father sat down on the sun-warmed wall beside his son.
“Well, Faramir. What are you making?”
“A tower!” the young boy said eagerly, showing his father the messy configuration of stones, which indeed resembled a tower, if you had a very good imagination. But the man smiled indulgently, patting the boy’s soft head.
“Very nice indeed, Faramir. Or perhaps it is a sword such as you will soon bear?”
The young boy looked at the long weapon hanging by his father’s sword, the grip black with use, but the bronze pommel carefully polished. “No. It’s the White Tower, such as Boromir will inherit.”
“What a clever child.” The father smiled his approval.
The two sat there in silence, the child absorbed with the business of manipulating his sticks and stones into new shapes, the father deep in his thoughts of his sons, and how he would forge them into fine warriors.
They sat there together long until the sun slipped into shadows. The father rose and left, thinking to attend to his other duties, but the son stared into the sunset and dreamed.
MINAS TIRITH, GONDOR
Year: TA 3019
Where had it gone, I wondered? What had gone wrong between us? Was it that he became Mithrandir’s pupil, and rejected the wishes that I held for him, the wishes of his own father? Was it that he took too deep an interest in books and lore, when I wished for him to wield a sword rather than a pen?
I did not know. I sat there with my head bowed, an old man alone with his grief in a hard and uncaring world. What sort of cruel power would take both of a father’s sons away from him? Ever since I lost the light of my life, sweet Finduilas, I had lavished my attention on Boromir instead. For he was my heir, and it seemed right to me that he should receive the better part of my skill and knowledge.
Then came the day when Boromir rode for Rivendell, for we in the South had heard news that the weapon of the Enemy had been found – Isildur’s Bane. I waited eagerly for my son to return to me, a proud and triumphant ruler, a leader of Men.
But he didn’t come. He didn’t come, and I had only one son left. Faramir. And now that his brother was gone, I realized that I knew him not at all. It seemed to me that he could be Boromir’s replacement, but there was a rift between us, a rift caused by the years I had spent instructing Boromir. It seemed that little Faramir did, as hard as he tried, was as good as Boromir could have done.
Perhaps it was this blindness, this thought that Faramir had to be Boromir in his brother’s absence, that killed him. How long would it be, an hour, a day, a week, before the poison set in? For it would, and nothing I could do might save him.
“Faramir,” I said. “Why must you go and break an old man’s heart? I am weary of this cursed world as it is, and with no sons, no wife, no kingdom, no life, what do I have?”
He did not answer. I knew he would not. Perhaps I would have loved him better if his mother had lived. Perhaps I blamed him for her death. I had sat such as this once before, bent over one whom I loved, filled with terrible grief and remorse, and I remembered well the heartache that had followed.
MINAS TIRITH, GONDOR
Year: TA 2988
The morning sun streamed full in the window. It was so bright, it was blinding. Dust swirled in its beam.
The woman lay in the bed, smiling faintly at the sun, her dark hair spilling in a dun waterfall down the thick heaps of pillows that propped up her frail form. Her arms were white and slender, resting on the heavy covers, and her thin fingers played with a seashell, strung on a bit of thread.
The man sat beside her, one of her wispy hands held tightly between his large, rough ones. His head was bent, his shoulders set as he tried to control his grief. One of his tears slid down into their interlaced fingers.
“Finduilas,” he whispered at last. “Why do you have to go? Why now?”
She raised her other hand to stroke his cheek, the brush of her pale fingers like a butterfly’s kiss on his face. “Dear one,” she whispered at last. “Do not cry. For I believe that we will meet again, somewhere beyond the bounds of this mortal world. Wherever I go, I will wait for you.”
“Stay with me. Please.” The man held her tighter, as if by his love alone he would stop the shadows from coming over her.
They sat in silence for a long time, a man and woman so closely entwined that they had become one being in heart and soul. The man tried to stop his grief, but he knew that eventually it would flow. He pressed his lips into a hard white line. The woman toyed with the seashell, a small, sad smile on her pale lips.
The day had passed and grown onto evening when at last the woman spoke again, her voice soft, barely above a whisper.
“The children, Denethor. Bring them.”
“I would not leave you.”
“Bring them,” the woman repeated, with slightly more force.
He could never refuse her anything. He rose, and slipped from the chambers, and found their sons, the two bright boys. Boromir was ten years old, hair neatly combed, a sad look on his young face, as if he knew what was to happen.
His younger brother, Faramir, was only five, his hair a tangle that wanted a mother’s touch. He was playing with a stack of wooden blocks when their father came to find them.
“Faramir. Boromir. Come with me.”
He took their small hands and led them through the darkening corridors to the tower room. There was a smell of sickness there, of withering, that not even the sweet scent of the white roses Finduilas loved so much could mask. Boromir’s face was very solemn. Faramir simply looked confused.
“Ah, my boys, my sweet boys,” Finduilas called from the bed, her voice a thread of sound. “Come to your mother.”
They came to her, climbing onto her bed and tentatively kissing her pale cheeks. She smiled then, and a brief flush of color came into her face, only to be gone instantly as tears filled her eyes. “My sons. Oh, I love you.”
She held them tightly, and closed her eyes so that they would not see her tears. The father stood in the shadows, watching, waiting. A terrible dread had fallen on him.
“Mama, why are you so pale?” Faramir asked. “Why do you no longer play with us?”
“Mama is very sick,” Boromir told his younger brother.
Faramir hung onto his mother’s nightdress, a sudden, fearful look in his eyes, something beyond his years. “Mama, you wouldn’t leave us, would you?”
“No, I will never leave you.” She let them go, and Faramir looked in her eyes and saw what was behind them. Boromir did not, but Finduilas and her younger son stared into each other’s eyes, and they both understood.
“Now, go,” she said, “and be good. Be good.”
Boromir took his younger brother’s hand, and led him from the chamber. The sunset was red, a bloodstain in the west. They waited. Boromir stared sadly out the window, and Faramir watched the door. They heard no sound from behind it.
Then the door opened, and Denethor stood there, and his eyes were dark and filled with a terrible sorrow. He walked past them down the hall, not looking back, not looking at anything.
Faramir and Boromir crept to the door and peered in, and a sudden fear came over them both. They saw their mother lying there, as beautiful as a queen but cold and still. It was the end. She had broken her promise. She had left them.
Faramir broke into bitter tears.
MINAS TIRITH, GONDOR
Year: TA 3019
These memories are so dark. These days are darker. The heat from the fires that I bid the servants tend day and night is creeping over me. I will not let them go out lest Faramir wake and find himself in a cold, dark room.
What am I thinking? He will not wake. “Put them out,” I tell the servants, and the fires are quenched. I hold my son’s hand to my face. The fires of wood and stone mean little. He is burning, already burning.
Outside, the city is burning. Inside, here, my son burned. I could do nothing. So I waited. I waited for it to come to the end. I would stay with Faramir. I would not leave him.
I closed my weary eyes and leaned back. Where had these tide of bitter memories come from? Why now? Was this perhaps what was called the darkest hour before dawn? Except now there would be no dawn.
I reached for the chalice at my side and took a deep draught of the bitter red wine to soothe my mind. It worked little. Even as I stared down at Faramir, I saw him not.
Year: TA 3008
The young man stood proud and straight, smiling as the wind rustled through the city and teased his new cloak. It was a fine one, cut of good green cloth and edged with twists of embroidery, and a small silver brooch worked in the shape of a star bound it at the neck. The hilt of a sword lifted its drape. Beneath the cloak, he wore a leather tunic worked with the White Tree of Gondor. Sturdy clothes, a Ranger’s clothes.
His father watched him with a critically appraising eye. At last, he said, “The outfit looks well on you. I hope you will fight as well as your clothes look.”
“I will, Father, I will,” the young man replied at once, beaming. He was proud. This was his day; he had at last been made a Captain of men such as his revered older brother was. His new band stood around him, smiling at their leader. They had learned to trust his quiet wisdom and instincts.
Faramir felt as if at long last, he had done something that pleased his father. Although Denethor tried to keep his face calm, he at last gave way to the grudging hint of a smile. “I trust you will not fail me in this appointment?”
“No, Father, I would not.” The voice was somewhat quieter now, but its joy was undiminished.
“Very well. See to it that you keep to your promises. No man will respect an oath-breaker, myself least of all.” And with that Denethor had whirled away, leaving Faramir standing behind him, gazing after him, the happiness suddenly gone from his eyes, as quick as a fire quenched.
Denethor stopped in the shadow of a building and was surprised to feel remorse. Why had he said that? Could he not have been kinder with his words, today of all days? Long had he hoped that Faramir was cut from the same cloth as his brother, and long he had been denied. Now, at last, Faramir was a Captain. Could he not have found some joy, some praise for his son?
Denethor sighed. It was that shadow-stone, that orb of dark glass, that he had gazed into one day and seen things both frightening and beautiful, terrifying yet majestic. Sometimes he wondered what it had done to him.
Before he could think differently, he turned back and walked to the new Captain, who was leaving the street, head bowed. He caught his son’s sleeve.
“I – I am proud of you. You will make a fine leader of your men.”
Faramir smiled suddenly, the sun breaking through the clouds after a storm. His eyes lit, and he bowed in respect. “Thank you, Father. Your words mean much to me.”
Denethor watched him leave. His son’s back was straight, his head high, as he climbed astride his new chestnut courser – a gift from Boromir – and cantered away. His men followed.
A shadow slid over the sun. Denethor shivered. It was too cold here; he’d best be heading back to Minas Tirith.
MINAS TIRITH, GONDOR
Year: TA 3019
I was weary now, so weary. Beyond the door, I heard thumps and shouts, the clang of steel and the cry of the dying. As long as I kept the door closed, kept myself sealed in this protective shell, no harm could touch me.
And as for Faramir…it was too late for him. Perhaps I could do one thing for him. Perhaps I could keep his body from falling into the hands of the enemy. They would only violate it, beat it and most like eat it as well. They are filthy, savage brutes.
I stood. My decision had been made. Nothing left to live for, no reason now for either of us to linger in this godforsaken earth. Finduilas had promised that she’d wait for me.
I clapped my hands, and servants came quietly from the shadows. One said tentatively, “My lord? Have you come to lead us? The battle begins to go ill – “
“I care little for the mindless ploys of Mithrandir, or even the Dark Lord,” I said. “I need none of it. Go to the crypts, and bring wood and oil.”
I saw the hesitation in their eyes as I spoke the words, but I felt no regrets, no second thoughts. Why should I? No reason to wait here. The only waiting I would do would be to wait until I would transcend.
The servants left. Again, I was alone, but for my dead. Faramir could not yet be alive. Not now. The room was cold, and void of living souls save for my own flickering candle of life.
But not for long.
“I’m coming, Finduilas,” I murmured, and felt a sensation of joy, at last, rising in my heart.