He sat alone, looking and feeling uncomfortable in a straight-backed wooden chair.
His Eowyn had been in that room for hours, and still, no one had come out, and no one had gone in. He had knocked once, but had been shooed away by a maid immediately.
He had tried occupying his mind with his duties as Lord of Ithilien and Steward of Gondor, but it was hopeless. Even pacing had afforded him no relief, and he was reduced to slumping in a chair with his aching head in his hands.
He closed his eyes and tried to relax, but as always, when his eyes shut, he relived things long since past…
* * * *
Finally detaching himself from the musty old annals, young Faramir, a boy of ten, wandered out of the library and into the courtyard, squinting bright blue eyes against the sun’s assault.
“Really,” he muttered to himself, clapping a hand over his eyes.
He looked around dejectedly once he had become accustomed to the bright light, wishing Boromir were here. But Boromir wasn’t. He was away in Osgiliath, overseeing the soldiers there. But when Boromir did come, he spoke of swords, shields, and women to his amused father. Unlike days past, he scarcely had time for Faramir anymore.
Not that anyone had ever had much time for him, Faramir thought. Even with his tender years to blind his eyes, he could see that.
His father always found excuses, usually extremely important duties, to keep his distance from Faramir, and Faramir preferred it that way. When his father did speak to him, his words were cruel and unforgiving. But the duties that were so pressing when Faramir was near faded to triviality when Boromir appeared.
But Faramir wasn’t jealous. Boromir was better than he was, Faramir was certain. Boromir deserved every whit of the praise he got. Perhaps one day, Faramir hoped, he could be like his brother. Maybe then his father would like him better.
And the servants? They had less time for him than Denethor, Faramir knew. If busy, she shooed him away like an undesirable at. if not busy, they clucked their tongues at him and shook their heads as if giving up hope on him.
And he didn’t even want to think about the children his age. His blue eyes grew misty whenever he remembered the things they said to him every time they saw him. He knew he was smaller than they, and less interested in bloodshed, but he didn’t understand why they ridiculed him for that.
He broke out of his reverie and smiled hopefully at the gate as the sound of clopping hooves grew closer.
It was only old Berenor, leading a saddled horse behind him.
Still, Berenor was better than nobody, so Faramir trotted the short distance to the aging stable hand.
Berenor smiled and lifted his hand in greeting to the Steward’s son.
“Young Faramir!” he croaked. “Come! I was hoping to find you. I have something of yours.”
“What is it, Berenor? What?” Faramir said, hopping excitedly. The old man had been known to surprise the youngest brother with a new book or trinket every now and again, and Faramir hadn’t forgotten it.
“Now, calm yourself, young man! It isn’t a book as you may hope,and I’m not entirely sure if you’ll like it..” Berenor joked.
“What then, Berenor?”
“Well, my boy. Your father comes to me recently and tells me he wants me to teach your how to ride as befits who you are: the Steward’s son. Seems to me he thinks you’ll never grow into a man with your nose constantly in musty books, and such like!” chuckled Berenor. “Said that if his son never lifts a sword in battle, he’ll at least ride a horse.”
Berenor slapped the spirited horse roughly. “He picked this stallion for you himself.”
Faramir’s shoulders slumped in utter disappointment.
“Isn’t it.. a little big?” he squeaked, staring in terror at the large black horse. The stallion didn’t seem to notice that it wasn’t wanted, swishing its tail placidly.
“Of course not!” Berenor snorted, slapping the horse again. “And it would do you no good to plod about on a spiritless brood mare what’d borne fifteen colts. Be glad you’ve a mount with fire in his soul!”
Perhaps the use of the word ‘fire’ was what vanquished Faramir’s courage entirely, but by the time Berenor had swung him into the stiff saddle and released the lead rope, Faramir was quivering like a leaf about to fall.
Berenor stepped back and instructed Faramir to squeeze tight with his knees while nudging the horse’s sides with his feet.
Faramir swallowed awkwardly and tried to comply, but the next instant, he was clawing for a hold as the horse neighed and reared high.
He lost his grip and tumbled to the ground, striking his head on the stones.
The world went black.
When he woke, he was lying on his bed, and he caught a glimpse of his father disappearing through the doorway. Something was running down his face, curse it! He rose shakily, pausing to let his head stop spinning.
He staggered to the looking glass in his room. It was blood running down his face.
When he saw it, he realized how much he hurt. Tears sprang to his eyes, but he kept them back as he lay back down again, wishing again that Boromir were there.
* * * * Six to seven years later…
Hurriedly fastening his belt, Faramir rushed into the courtyard, already aware of what he would see. He was late, again.
But to Mordor with it. He’d been late every lesson since the cursed fighting instruction had begun. He wasn’t bad at fighting, actually. He just didn’t like it.
“Ah!” called the instructor, brandishing a sword at Faramir, who promptly came to a halt before him, drawing his own sword.
“The punctual Lord Faramir! Since he is too learned already to bother coming to lessons, shall we offer him the challenge to best me and complete his training?” The instructor directed this last question to the other young men, who cheered loudly.
But Faramir, who’d been in a rather temperamental mood all day, had tolerated all the abuse he was going to tolerate.
“Excellent!” he shouted. “Let it begin!”
A hush fell. The instructor stiffened, but then laughed loudly, without humor. He strode forward to meet Faramir after motioning to the young men to draw back.
They were well matched, instructor and pupil. Faramir was handicapped by his years and lack of experience, while the instructor was shorter and of weaker build than Faramir, who had grown tall and broad of late.
Around and around they went, blades flashing brightly in the sun.
The others found themselves gazing stupidly at Faramir with slack jaws and wide eyes. When had he stopped being a little boy and grown into a formidable man? The rapt attention of the viewers broke into tumultuous applause when Faramir finally wore down the instructor’s stength and disarmed him.
“Well done…” panted the instructor, grudgingly. “I will tell your father that you have learned all that I have to teach.”
Faramir nodded condescendingly and sheathed his sword. Usually praise from a critic pleased him immensely, but he had caught sight of something.. rather, someone out of the corner of his eye.
Sanorë had been watching him.
Faramir had adored her for as long as he could remember, but had grown less enthralled when, walking down a long, dark corridor, he had found her and Boromir together, kissing.
Still.. He threw reserve to the wind and walked toward her, smiling hopefully.
“Good day, Sanorë!” he said brightly.
“Good day,” she answered, staring at him coldly.
“Er..” said Faramir, searching desperately for something to say. “Did you enjoy watching the match?”
“I’ve seen better. Far better. Excuse me,” Sanorë said rudely, brushing past him.
Faramir watched her go, unable to decide whether he was angry or hurt. Why had she said that to him? No one else had ever bested the instructor before. Why was he not good enough?
He retreated to the library as always. He knew that the books would not say hurtful things to him, and there he could have peace.
* * * *
He hadn’t meddled with women again after Sanorë. He didn’t see what was so wonderful about them that it was worth getting stung by their sharp words to attain.
At least, he hadn’t seen what was wonderful.. Until he met Eowyn. She had come to him the first time with complaints of her confinement in the House of Healing, golden and beautiful, even in a simple white robe with bandages plastered on her arm and on the many scrapes and cuts she had attained during the battle.
It seemed to Faramir that all the gloom and despair that lingered in him evaporated when he laid eyes on her that first time, and it had never come back.
He’d felt as though he could soar with the Eagles when her lips touched his, and he still felt that way.
His wooden chair creaked as he straightened up and resumed staring at the door behind which Eowyn lay.
He heard the sound of a crying child, and then rushing footsteps. The door opened, and a maid, wearing an enormous grin, emerged, beckoning to him wildly.
“Come, come, Lord Faramir!”
He half-ran into the room and skidded to a stop beside the bed where Eowyn lay.
She looked tired, but when she whispered his name and held up his son to him, his worries disappeared, and he soared with the Eagles once more.
Pressing his tiny son close to his heart, he knew he never wanted to look back again. He wanted to look forward to all the wonderful things to come.