May 4th, in the year 3018 of the Third Age
The worn weathered parchment was tied with a small piece of leather. It was creased and travel-stained as if it had been carried over a great distance for an age of time. In some ways it had. This simple document had passed through flood, fire and death to reach its destination. A journey it almost did not make except for a chance search of where it had been hidden. The grey eyes of Númenor studied the small packet in his hands. There could be only one person this was meant for and now that the affairs of the lords of Gondor, Ithilien and Rohan had been settled somewhat, it was time.
He recalled how the writer had never spoken the brother’s name without love and pride in his voice. It was a brave and valiant man that sealed his written thoughts with a simple knot. If he did nothing else to honor Boromir of Gondor, he would at least see to it that the proud captain’s last words were delivered to the one for whom they were intended.
“I found it at the very bottom of your brother’s pack. I know of no other it could have been meant for.”
Faramir listened to Aragorn almost absently, nodding in distracted agreement as he turned the folded and tied packet in his hand. For such a small, fragile thing it weighed heavy in his hand. How many sleepless nights had he spent trying to guess what had been in Boromir’s mind that fateful day in February, the day his brother died in spirit and in life. Not many men could claim two deaths. Yet he knew from the hobbit, Pippin, that Boromir had redeemed himself from his folly. Aragorn later verified that not only had Boromir died with honor, that with his dying breath, he had sworn his allegiance to the man who would reunite Gondor and Arnor.
“My brother, my captain, my king.”
Oh how angry Denethor would have been if he had lived to hear this tale. His proud father, the one who insisted that the oath of the Stewards would be tarnished should they ever try to claim the kingship for themselves. Yet this same pride constantly reinforced the steward’s intention of never acknowledging any man as heir to the throne, regardless of the validity of the man’s claim, Aragorn’s claim. The steward had indoctrinated both of his sons in this particular way of thinking, though only Boromir took his words as law. Denethor had blamed Gandalf for Faramir’s quiet rebellion of the status quo; a rebellion, to his icy fury had been supported by Boromir of all people.
Faramir’s eyes misted over. Boromir had stood up to their father many times in Faramir’s defense. It was Boromir who insisted that at least one of them should posses the scholarly skills that Faramir excelled at and the other detested. It was Boromir told anyone who dared to say otherwise that the younger son was no less a man for learning these things. And after the death of their mother, it was Boromir who soothed the younger brother’s wounded spirit when Faramir had failed, time and again, to gain their stern father’s approval.
It was Boromir who insisted that Denethor loved his younger son though he showed it but little and said it aloud even less. His father’s words of love. Fever, despair and the Black Breath had deprived him of hearing his father profess his love for his youngest son, though Gandalf repeated Denethor’s last words to Faramir whenever requested.
Denethor’s last words. Did he hold Boromir’s in his hand? Did he truly want to know what they were?
With a guilty start, Faramir looked up. Silence. How long had it been since Aragorn had stopped speaking?
“Forgive me, my lord,” Faramir apologized. “I’m afraid I was lost in my own thoughts, what were you saying?”
Aragorn smiled in understanding. “Nothing of importance, if there is anything else I can tell you, you have but to ask.” The newly crowned King of Gondor laid a gentle hand on the younger man’s shoulder. “I will leave you with him, I hope you find something there that brings you understanding, if not comfort.”
No longer trusting his voice, Faramir could only nod. He waited until he heard the quiet snick of the latch falling into place before, with trembling hands, he worked on the tight knot in the leather. It would have been much easier to take the blade tip of his knife and cut the cord but this knot had been tied by Boromir’s hands. He would persevere until he had untied it with his. Fifteen long, sweaty, patient minutes later, he worked the laces free and loosed the parchment from its bonds. With the same care he would have used to unwind his brother’s death shroud, Faramir gently unfolded the worn document.
He quickly read it through once and then a second time, more slowly and in depth. Halfway through his second reading Faramir was forced to set the letter on the table when he could no longer control his shaking limbs. He wanted to laugh, to weep, to rage, to despair, to console, but most of all, he wanted to hold his brother one last time. But that was impossible so he did the only thing that was left and began to read one more time.
`The newest is one I must share with you though I fear it will cause you great pain. It falls upon me to be the bearer of grievous tidings. We dared the depths of the dwarven tomb that had once been the legendary city of Moria, a foolish decision but one we were forced into. There, on the bridge of Khazad dum, Gandalf the Grey faced a Balrog. It was a hideous creature, the likes of which I have never seen before. Smoke, flame and shadow, it was all of these things and none of them for how could a creature live yet burn with the very fires of Mount Doom? With his power, the wizard caused the solid stone of the bridge to crumble at the creature’s feet as if it was clay. At the last moment, the beast swung its formless arm and wrapped the end of the fiery whip it held around Gandalf’s ankles. He let go my brother; he acted unselfishly, senselessly, to ensure the balrog’s fall into the abyss, to save the company and the quest.’
Many would marvel at the thought of the mighty blade of Gondor putting quill to parchment for something as mundane as a letter, but not Faramir. After his brother had left on the quest, how many times had he turned to consult Boromir on some matter only to remember that he couldn’t? Instead, he would often walk the battlements of the seventh circle, talking to a man who was not there. Is this not what Boromir had done? Caught up in grief and confusion, stranded in a strange land, his brother had written down his thoughts in the same way Faramir had talked to the setting moon and rising sun high above their city.
And how like Boromir it was to wish to soften the blow he knew Faramir would be dealt upon hearing of Gandalf’s death. A death Boromir had witnessed, whose own death had prevented him from seeing the wizard rise from the abyss, stronger than ever.
`Aye, he is the halfling in the dream as he proved when he stood forth in the council, the Ring in his hand. The freedom of our world rests on the shoulders of one whose curly head does not even reach my chest. A heavy burden for one so small . . . such a burden. I can feel the weight that lies on his heart as surely as if it were laid on my own, a heart already heavy with fear and doubt.
I fear, Faramir, I fear that Gondor will fall to Sauron and all will be lost. I fear I will fail, that I will fail our father, our people. Denethor has entrusted me solely with the welfare of our land and our people. If I choose poorly, if I take the wrong path, then the ruin of Gondor will be laid at my feet. There will be no chance for redemption or forgiveness from him or from our people.’
It was too much. The pressure and the burden that Denethor had placed on the back of his eldest son had been the beginning of Boromir’s fall from grace. A burden the elder had taken on solely, willingly, in order to shield the younger from the pitfalls that came with such responsibility.
Had he ever told Boromir that he understood, how grateful he, Faramir, was for the ability to go his own way? A privilege that had been bought with Boromir’s submission to their father’s will in all things. Though, to be fair, Boromir was much better suited to Denethor’s ideals than Faramir, a fact Denethor never let either of them forget. A fact that Faramir had been secretly thankful for. If only Denethor had spoken of his love for his youngest son to the son himself. If only he had been more like Boromir and able to share the burden of duty. If only he had gone to Imladris and not Boromir. If only …
So many ifs, and in the end, would it have changed anything? He would never know, yet it did not stop him from silently asking Boromir’s memory for forgiveness, for not being there when his brother needed him. Faramir didn’t think that particular guilt would ever be wholly assuaged, not for as long as he lived. How could it when Boromir had never failed to be there for him while he had lived? He knew that he bore no fault. There had no way for him to know of Boromir’s need at the time, and from the contents of the letter, his brother had needed him desperately.
Faramir could pick the paragraph, the line, where the Ring’s evil had begun to twist and warp his brother’s thoughts.
`This fear intensifies with every step that brings me closer to home and with it, my doubt. A doubt that torments me in the night with its endless questions. Is the destruction of the Ring the wisest course? What would our father want me to do? What would he do in my place? Are we not committing a grievous error by not availing ourselves of its power? Surely this is the driving force behind Sauron’s desperate search to regain the Ring. Does he fear that we will take his precious talisman and use it to cast him down for all eternity? Free our people, all people from his reign of terror and that of his servants. And when that task has been accomplished, use the power of the Ring to restore Gondor to its former prosperity and glory. Nay, to an even greater glory than ever before.’
It grieved Faramir to see his brother’s inordinate pride of his city, his land, used against him. It almost caused him to regret reading the letter. Almost. If he had not wanted to know, he would have cast the missive into the fire the moment Aragorn had left the room. Now he had to accept the grim with the good. The joy of knowing Boromir’s last thoughts tempered by the sorrow of how dark those last thoughts had been. It was frightening to be able to recognize a subtly altered version of his brother’s script with Sauron’s venom dripping from every word. Words and deeds so alien to his brother’s true nature.
“Yet that was not all, I saw that those who did not wish to submit to my gracious rule were exiled and their families made slaves to the crown. These slaves would assume the menial tasks of the kingdom and free the proper citizens to engage in endeavors worthy of their stature. Ahhh, but the maidens who bore the ill luck of belonging to a heretic family, these maidens would serve the pleasure of the king. I would slake my thirst with them until they were empty and I had had my fill. Such tender, young . . . .”
Faramir’s stomach turned violently as he reread this passage and the one written later. The Ring’s influence was almost complete, yet the shining blade of Gondor’s love still managed to break free for the moments it took to warn Faramir.
Forgive me, my dearest brother, you whom I hold closer to my heart than any other, I have failed. I have at last read what I had written earlier and now I must warn you while I am still able. Run, Faramir, and run quickly should the Ring come within your grasp. Touch it not! Send it and its bearer on their way and then flee as if the very Nine were snapping at your heels. Isildur’s Bane, an ill-omened name for that which speaks in the honeyed voice of deceit and lies. It is altogether evil! Save yourself! Save our people! I fear it is too late for me. Remember me as I was my beloved br. . . .’
Faramir tried to remember the mystical peace he had seen on his brother’s face. Lovingly laid out in what he knew now to be an elven boat: Boromir’s lifeless body had drifted past him on its way down the Anduin to the sea. It had been a dark night, the moon too new to cast much light, yet a pale glow surrounded the vessel and the man who rested therein. How he had longed to pull the boat ashore and cradle the wounded body of his beloved brother, yet something, he knew not what, had held him back.
He had only time to grieve but a little before events forced him to set his grief aside. That same grief was still an unhealed wound in his heart and the last coherent words that were truly Boromir’s set it to bleeding anew. Sorrow long held back burst forth with an anguished cry as Faramir violently pushed himself away from the table, knocking down the chair he had just occupied. In his anguish and haste, he stumbled over that same chair and fell to his hands and knees. With the letter crumpled in his hand and his face to the floor, Faramir’s body shook with the force of his weeping. He wept for Boromir, for himself, for their father, for all that had been both lost and won.
Even if he hadn’t been lost in his distress, he still would have not heard the door, it had opened that quietly. Slender booted feet trod the floor with the barest whisper of leather against stone. It wasn’t until a cool, slim hand laid itself against his wet, fevered cheek that he realized he was no longer alone. The simple brown fabric pooled within his sight was as familiar as the hand on his face. Stiffly, he pushed himself up until he was kneeling, his legs still folded under him. Soft hands cupped his face.
“Lord Aragorn said you might have need of me,” said Eowyn in a low voice. “Will you not share your grief with me?”
You have been shamed before this woman, wailing on the floor like a child who knew no better, a small voice whispered in his ear. Ignoring the words of his father, Faramir held out the creased parchment to Eowyn. A raised brow spoke for her as she took the proffered letter and began to read.
Faramir closed his eyes as hers scanned the written words before her. Tears still traced a path down his cheeks though the overflowing streams had slowed to a trickle. Weeks of pent up sorrow and guilt would not be expatiated in this single outpouring of emotion but, already, the burden seemed a little easier to bear. If he had gleaned nothing else from his brother’s last words, he learned that a heavy load was easier to carry when shared and he did not fear to share it with Eowyn. She had told him of the fear and helplessness she felt as she watched her uncle, King Theoden, fall further and further under Wormtongue’s spell. If there was any who could understand his pain, it would be her.
“How tormented he was.” Eowyn’s voice roused him from his thoughts. “Did he not die defending the halflings?”
“Only after he tried to take the Ring from Frodo,” Faramir answered wearily.
Eowyn set the letter aside and took Faramir’s hands into her own. “An act you were told he regretted and was ashamed of. It was you who told me that Boromir redeemed his honor by giving his life in his attempt to save Merry and Pippin.”
Faramir nodded, he had told her this during their time together in the Houses of Healing, repeating what he had been told by Pippin and Aragorn.
“Then he died as any warrior hopes to die. Just as my uncle, he died defending those he had sworn to protect.”
The faintest ghost of a smile materialized on Faramir’s face. “He told me many times that he would rather die with glory and honor in battle than to die of old age. I always knew it would be so.”
Eowyn enfolded Faramir in her arms and stroked his hair, his cheeks. “My love, you have held this sorrow close to your heart for too long. How can we wed if we do not share the things that cause us hurt as well as those that bring us joy?”
Faramir pulled himself from her embrace, his grey-eyed gaze resting like a cloud on the still, calm pool of blue that was her eyes. “Will you always share yours with me?”
Eowyn’s lips twitched at the corners as she answered gravely, “If I weep, will you think me a spineless female who suffers the vapors at every turn?”
“My White Lady of Rohan!” Faramir pressed his hand to his breast in mock horror. “A spineless, quivering mass of jelly! Perish the thought.”
Eowyn’s soft laughter poured over Faramir’s wounded heart and more healing was begun.
“Then I believe I can come to you with my sorrows as well as my joys.”
Faramir grasped the hands of the love he had never thought to find. “My dearest lady, I would ask a favor of you.” He sobered. “Our first son, would you mind terribly, if we named him Boromir.”
Eowyn’s eyes filled. The name that Faramir could scarcely speak because of the suffering it caused.
“I would not have him called by any other name.”