Disclaimer: The characters in this story are the property of the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien and New Line Cinema. I am making no profit from their use.
SUMMARY: The passing of Faramir, Steward of Gondor, told from the perspective of his long-dead brother Boromir.
WARNINGS: ***SPOILERS*** for ‘Return of the King’!!!
A major character dies in this fic.
Many thanks to my sister SarahB for her suggestions and assistance.
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My brother is dying.
It saddens me, although it shouldn’t, because he certainly has had a long and full life, far longer than I could ever have dreamed of. As the more warlike of the two, I somehow always knew I would fall before he would, perhaps in some great battle, and glory would crown my grave.
That was not how it worked out, but I have accepted that. I have learned much in the time since that dark day at Amon Hen.
But Faramir, as quiet and bookish as he always was, survived, just as I knew he would, and proved far stronger than I. I wonder if he ever knew I’ve been watching him, it’s a habit I could never break myself of. Perhaps it’s simply part of being a big brother, even though he surpassed my age long ago, and is now by far my senior. How strange it has been, to see that, but he has borne the years with the grace of ancient Númenor, as Aragorn has. They are both over a hundred, but do not look it.
Faramir’s hair has lost its color, to be sure, but he has a full head of it, and it still hangs in long white curls to his shoulders, as thick as ever. His face is lined but still handsome, his body retaining its strength well past the time other men were crippled with weakness, until the illness came.
Three weeks have passed since then, and every moment I have been here, watching. Outside, it is a clear autumn night; through the large open windows of the room, I can see the vast sky stretching over the plains of the Pelennor, its black expanse studded with brilliant stars far too numerous to count. The softly scented air stealing in through the windows is warm, but with a cool tinge that tells of the forthcoming change.
My vigil is not a solitary one, for Eowyn of Rohan stands with me. She passed some years ago, and has been my constant companion to Faramir’s bedside. Such a fine, brave soul she is, my brother could not have chosen a more fit wife. If only he knew she were here. Sadly, the veil between our worlds has not yet lifted enough for him to see us here. I hope it does, a little, before the end, so that we might be able to speak to him, and he will know he has nothing to fear.
This evening has been like many others past. Eowyn and I have been watching, in the dimly lit bedchamber, as visitors come, whisper to my brother, and leave, usually in tears. He seems almost lost in that large bed. As comfortable as I’m sure it is, it has been a prison to him for too long, and it makes me strangely angry to see him lying so still for so long upon it. Faramir was never much of a lounger; he’d be up before I was, eager to hurry out and face the challenges of the day. How can he sleep so long now, without going mad from the inaction?
Aragorn is here now, seated by Faramir’s side. I can hear him speaking softly to my brother, and barely make out Faramir’s weak and whispered answer. Eowyn and I hang back, unwilling to intrude in the farewell; I am only grateful for the King’s kindness to Faramir. How different that attitude is, from the first feeling I had towards the man! I disdained him then, and would have been enraged to see him wearing the winged crown. Time has taught me better. He has been all I could have hoped for Gondor, our true King far more than I realized. I was just too blind to see it; thank the Valar Faramir was not.
There is another with us as well, but he is not nearby. I do not think he can bear to be close. I turn to meet his eyes, if for no other reason than to acknowledge the suffering he feels now, and has endured for many long years. Only he and I know the depth of it.
Our father, Denethor, once Steward of Gondor, stands by the doorway to the chamber, his keen eyes watching the scene, sharp as ever but full of fathomless sorrow. My heart aches for him, for Faramir, for all three of us. All my life I was witness to my father’s displeasure with Faramir, a displeasure that showed itself in cold words and piercing disdain. My love for both of them drove me to each end, comforting my brother and doing all I could to persuade our father of the wrongness of his thinking.
It is a source of unspeakable frustration to me that I was never successful; at our last meeting together, Father’s words for Faramir were as disapproving as ever. I rode to Rivendell hoping to end father’s torment by finding Isildur’s Bane and bringing victory and peace to Gondor, little guessing that we had spoken for the last time alive.
I have tried to forget the agony of the months following Amon Hen, witnessing my father’s final madness and suicide without the power to save him. Heavy too was the knowledge that he and Faramir parted badly; by the time our father came to realize the folly of his ways, Faramir was gravely wounded and unable to hear his words of love, and our father perished by his own hand in utter despair of ever righting the anguish his indifference had caused.
In the years since, I have grieved for both of them. Our father has been consumed with bitter repentance, unable to find peace or self-forgiveness in all this time. I know that the painful memories have haunted Faramir as well; he has forgiven Father, but the hurt lingers yet, the endless ache of an unspoken farewell. They have each languished on their own sides of the vale, and their sorrow has occupied my thoughts often as well. Even his reunion with our mother Finduilas has not eased our father’s guilt. Only words of absolution from Faramir’s own lips will lift his burden.
As I gaze at our father, our eyes lock, and I see deep fear welling in those gray depths. He is unsure whether Faramir will be capable of grace towards him, and my reassurances have not granted him any comfort. I believe he fears dwelling in his hell of regret forever, far more searing than even the fire which ended his mortal life. I nod at him, trying to give him encouragement, but he seems only to sigh and watch in terrible suspense. Powerless to help him, I turn my eyes back to Faramir, sadness gripping my heart on our father’s behalf. Hopefully his suffering will be ended soon.
Aragorn rises, says a few more whispered words, and gently kisses my brother on the forehead. My throat tightens; he did the same to me, long ago, in farewell, and it heartens me to see him bestow the same honor upon Faramir. He is certainly more deserving of it than I ever was.
Faramir’s son Elboron is here as well, quietly watching at a discreet distance during Aragorn’s visit. Rarely has he left this room during the past three days. He comes forward as Aragorn rises, and they exchange a few soft words before the King departs. As always, I marvel at what a fine man my nephew is, how even in his old age he bears enough of Faramir’s Numenorean blood to look barely half his years. His face is a mix of Faramir and our father, but his hair has the golden look of Eowyn’s, now mixed with white. He has assumed the mantle of Steward, and bears it with proper gravity; Faramir and Eowyn raised him well, and he will preserve the integrity of the office as his father has done. I can sense Eowyn’s high emotion at seeing her son again. If only we could speak across the invisible gulf between us, but that day will come in its time as well.
Elboron sits by his father’s side and takes his hand. This is another conversation which I will not intrude upon. Elboron leans close to his father’s face, his expression one of profound love; there are exchanged whispers, very soft. I believe Faramir is growing too weary to speak, which saddens me, for I know there is much he would want to to say to his son in farewell.
A long time passes. The talk ceases, and Elboron simply sits quietly, still holding my brother’s hand and watching. Faramir’s face is turned from me so that I cannot see it, but I suspect he has fallen asleep. I would prefer this; he deserves a painless death, something my father and I were denied. We can only wait and see.
The crisis comes a short time later. Faramir stirs and begins to cough. Elboron clutches his hand and stays by his side as a healer is quickly summoned. My brother is struggling to breathe now, seemingly heedless of his caretaker’s efforts.
Eowyn and I are beside ourselves with frustration, able only to witness. Elboron lifts his father carefully in his arms in an attempt to ease his breathing while the healer hurries over with a cup of something in his hand. Silently I pray, something I never did enough of before; surely the Valar would not take my brother in a fit of choking agony, after all that he has suffered. One of the lessons I have learned, however, is that I know so very little of the reasons some things are done.
The crisis passes. After drinking the draught, Faramir seems to breathe easy again, and when it appears all is well Elboron gently settles his father back onto the soft mattress, arranging the thick coverlets around him once more. My brother appears near the end. As soon as Faramir has relaxed again and closed his eyes to rest, the healer takes Elboron aside, and I can guess the nature of their conference. It will be soon.
I look at Eowyn, consumed with impatience. I can’t wait any longer, and this may be my only chance. I move quickly to the area vacated by Elboron, hoping Faramir might open his eyes and see me, hoping he might be made to know.
It is the nearest I have been, and the sight of my brother’s face frightens me. It lays almost white beneath the gentle glow of the candles, full of weariness; the last bout has taken all of his strength. His eyes are closed, his head nestled deep against the thick pillow. Perhaps he cannot wake now.
Unwilling to let it go, I bend forward. None but he will hear me, if he is close enough to our world for the sound to carry.
“Faramir?” I say, softly, so as not to startle him. “Can you hear me? I want you to know we are here, brother. Open your eyes.”
There is a pause, and I begin to think that my words have not reached him. Then, the eyelids flutter, slowly open halfway, and my brother looks directly at me for the first time in nearly a hundred years.
I smile, joy flooding my soul, grateful beyond words that this has been granted to us. There is amazement in his eyes as well, filling as they are now with tears, but he is without strength enough for speech. A weak smile tugs his lips, and I can see that he is trying to say my name. I shake my head, placing my hand over his, knowing he can feel my touch now.
“Don’t tire yourself, little brother, we will speak soon enough,” I assure him. “I only wished to tell you to have no fear, for those who love you are with you, and will not leave until you may accompany us.”
Faramir blinks at me, the tears now running down his face. There is complete understanding in his expression; he knows this is not a dream. Something else abides there as well, a drowsy shadow whose mark I have seen all too often on the faces of dying men upon the field of battle. To see it upon my beloved brother’s face fills me with an odd sort of dread. I know there is nothing to fear, yet it is fear I feel, for him. During our younger days I did all I could to shield him from harm, but I cannot protect him from what is to come, although I would pay any price to do so. It is a journey all men must make alone.
Despite my foreboding, I smile again, gently grip his hand to reassure him, then turn to Eowyn who stands now beside me. Knowing time is short, I rise and allow them the privacy I know they would want after so long apart. What she says to him, and what he conveys to her, I cannot tell. There are some moments even a brother cannot impose upon.
As I move away, I glance at our father, who still is unable to venture near. His face is wreathed in sorrow; I can tell he dearly wants to comfort Faramir, but he is unsure of the effect his appearance might have on him. He does not want to cause my brother fear or pain now, but he also is not prepared to experience the possible rejection that may result. It seems to me that even after all this time, my father is not ready for this day; he does not want to face the terrible reality he has so long imagined, and I know that there is nothing I can do to relieve his mind. We can both only wait.
I look up and see Elboron approaching with the healer. Turning my head, I see Eowyn saying something very softly to Faramir while she caresses his face. She seems to know she must leave now; one final kiss, and she is by my side again. I put my arm around her, doing my best to comfort her as we both wait for what is to come. Our greatest fear is that he may suffer; perhaps even if that is his fate, he will be soothed by knowing that we are with him.
I see Elboron sit once more by Faramir’s side, taking his hand with a gentle smile. He whispers something, reaching out to wipe a tear from his father’s cheek. Faramir’s lips move a little, and I can see he is smiling as well, as much as his depleted strength will allow. Probably trying to tell his son what he has seen. Even if Elboron can hear him, his tale will likely be regarded by most as a dying man’s fanciful dream. That matters little to me; my brother knows the truth. Perhaps my nephew will discern it as well, and find comfort in his father’s words.
Faramir’s eyes drift closed, and Eowyn and I somehow know that the time is near. His breathing is very labored and shallow now. Aragorn enters, looking very solemn, without any of his royal trappings. He is here simply as a friend, not a king. He nods to Elboron and stands behind him, waiting. My nephew returns the greeting, then turns his eyes once more to his father, never releasing the hand he holds tenderly in both of his own.
Several minutes pass, and I can sense somehow that Faramir has fallen into a very deep slumber. Gratitude wells through me; I have little reason to suppose that I am worthy of such a gift, but Faramir has earned it many times over. He will not suffer. I hold Eowyn close, knowing that she feels it as well.
For close to an hour my brother sleeps, never stirring or giving any signs of distress, his features relaxed and peaceful. He smiles slightly once or twice, immersed in pleasant dreams. At length, he takes a very slow breath, expels it in a long, comfortable sigh, and is still.
Elboron chokes and bows his head. Aragorn grips his shoulder, his eyes shining, then turns to a guard nearby, and whispers a few orders. As the guard hurries off, the King turns his full attention to Elboron, murmuring assurances as he puts his arm around my nephew. Elboron nods, kisses my brother’s hand, places it gently upon his breast, then rises and lightly kisses his forehead. Everyone in the room weeps.
Eowyn and I notice this, and I am grateful for their honoring of Faramir, but I have a duty to do. Moving to the still form of my brother, I reach down and carefully lift him in my arms. Yet it is his spirit, not the aged, empty body, that nestles in my embrace as I stand. The years have vanished from the slumbering figure now cradled in my arms; he is young again as on the day we parted, his face smooth, his hair regaining its youthful color without a hint of white.
He does not know what has happened, yet; that will come presently. For now, he settles his head against my shoulder, as he often did when we were children and I carried him up to bed. Perhaps he realizes, somehow, that we are finally reunited. I hold him close, weeping without shame, unspeakably thankful that he has passed without fear or pain, and thinking of the joy he will finally be able to share when he awakes. Eowyn’s eyes shine as well as she strokes her husband’s face and smiles at me with anticipation. I am willing to let him sleep; when this sweet rest is finished, he will have no need for it again.
It is in this mood that we depart, even as Aragorn gives orders for the days ahead. I know that he is commanding the signal flame in the window extinguished to signify the death of the Steward, the walls to be draped in black, and the other mourning customs that my people observe. Soon Faramir will be laid in state, respects paid, and then his remains will be placed within the ancient burial tombs of our fathers. A likeness of him will take its place beside that of our father in the palace’s Great Hall. He will be loved and remembered, as Steward, husband, and father, just as he – and I – would have wished.
The walls of the sick room dissolve into a beautiful, brilliant light, and suddenly I am aware that our father is beside me. I look at him; his expression is hesitant, conflicted, full of gratitude and trepidation. The moment he has long yearned for and deeply dreaded has almost arrived. With trembling hand he touches my brother’s face, tears coursing down his cheeks. I believe simply reuniting with Faramir has healed his heart immeasurably.
All at once I feel Faramir stir. Quickly I kneel, supporting him behind his back as I sit him down. As I look once more into his face, I see his eyes blinking open, his expression one of wonder at the glorious light that envelops us all.
He looks up and meets my gaze, astonished. With a cry he embraces me, a fierce, joyful strength in his arms. I return the gesture with no less enthusiasm, hugging him tightly, too overwhelmed to think properly. All that comes to my mind is how much I have missed him. We are weeping, every warm tear washing away the bitter memories of grief and separation. I am sure that we have both long looked for this moment, but now that it has come, neither of us has words for it. I discover none are needed.
I lift my brother to his feet, and as we part Eowyn runs into his arms, unable to restrain herself any longer. I step back, still smiling, as they dissolve into a blur of tears and kisses. She is sobbing and laughing at once; he won’t stop saying how beautiful she looks. At times like this, I almost regret never taking a wife. But it was ever Faramir who was the romantic, and it gladdens me beyond measure that he loved and wed so well, and that they have met again at last.
There are embraces and tears once more as our mother greets him-far more tender and quiet, to be sure, but the measure of joy in Faramir’s eyes is no less profound for its subdued nature. He has not seen her since he was five years old, but I know he has never ceased holding her in his heart.
As they talk, I glance over to where our father stands. He appears frightened, unsure; Faramir has yet to see him. Never have I seen him wear such an expression, particularly when facing my brother. It was always Faramir who felt uneasy before that stern gaze, the scrutinizing, critical eye that always found him wanting. How odd it is to see my father wear the look that used to mask my brother’s features, to see him waiting fearfully for Faramir’s love. I know he will not wait long, or in vain, but it is not my assurance that he needs.
I observe our father suddenly straighten, and turning my eyes back to Faramir I can see that he has found our father at last. My brother seems surprised, but whether for good or ill I cannot tell. There is a timeless pause; his jaw drops a little, his mouth hanging slightly open in a familiar look of amazement. His eyes are wide, and I hope that my father can discern that there is no anger there.
Then Faramir is walking quickly towards our father, who seems too stunned to move. He has determined to stand, and endure whatever my brother chooses to say; he has told me before how bitterly he has earned every possible word of reproach. How shocked he must feel, then, when Faramir throws his arms about his neck in a tight embrace, loving exclamations forcing themselves around the tears in his voice.
For a moment, I can tell, our father is too amazed to move. It hardly seems possible to him, I think, that Faramir does not hate him. He swiftly comprehends, however, a heartbreaking mixture of joy and bewilderment mingling on his face, and he clasps Faramir to his heart with fierce elation, utterances of repentance and affection mingling with his own sobs.
As I watch, overwhelmed once more, I realize that it is the first time in adulthood that I have seen the two of them embrace. I look over at our mother and Eowyn, both of whom are as aware as I of what this means to our father and Faramir. They appear as profoundly thankful as I am, satisfied to watch and feel the brightness and warmth of the surrounding light flow around and through us all.
Faramir and our father have parted from the embrace, although they still clasp each other’s arms. They are speaking to each other in low, choked tones of regret and forgiveness. I cannot make out all that they say, but then the words are not meant for me. That they are being said at all contents me more than enough.
It is time to depart. As our father rejoins our mother, Faramir takes Eowyn’s hand and comes to my side, smiling. I put my arm around him, grinning like a fool but unable to help myself. He has never looked so happy, and I suspect I have not either. The healing of our family has begun at last, and I realize that of all the victories I have enjoyed, this will be by far the sweetest.
Together we leave Minas Tirith behind, and move on.
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