Hate of a Father, Love of a Brother by Charis
The day had begun well. Faramir had risen early, as was his custom, to see the dawn break on the faraway mountains. The sight had caught his breath in his throat and he felt he was being honored by a visit from the Lady Varda herself as brilliant, radiant light poured forth towards Minas Tirith. As usual, after his reverie had been lifted, he saw that Boromir was not in bed. Faramir might rise early, but Boromir rose even earlier. Yet he rose not to view the dawn, but to practice with the sword. He took no note of such simple things as natural beauty; his thoughts were consumed with those of a warrior.
Faramir had descended several flights of steps with a gaiety brought on by the awesome sight he had witnessed that morning. Coming to a high terrace he found himself able to gaze down into one of the many courtyards of the citadel and he perceived from a distance the form of Boromir, sword in hand, darting here and there as if he were fighting real enemies and not air. He paused for a moment to take into his heart and mind this picture of his brother, five years his senior. Faramir was still but a lad at thirteen; Boromir was a young man of eighteen. In Faramir’s eyes, Boromir was his superior in every way save in lore. Faramir’s soul longed not for war, but for peace, and he found it in his books: stories of the past, stories that bred beauty and love and joy. From an early age, Faramir had exhibited an unusual capacity for reading and learning. His love of lore had created in him wisdom beyond his years. Even as young as he was now, his quiet demeanor veiled the strength of his mind within. Boromir could surely outpace Faramir in battle, but Faramir’s knowledge reigned over the elder brother. Yet neither hated the other; on the contrary, what each of them lacked he adored in the other.
The day would have continued in harmony, had not breakfast that morning brought stinging hate onto Faramir’s young head. Having observed his brother, Faramir called to him and bade him come to mealtime. Boromir’s figure had turned and a wave of his sword signaled he had heard. Faramir continued on to the great hall where he, his brother and his father dined. The usual spread was laid out: a feast of unparalleled delight anywhere in the whole of Middle Earth consisting of breads, soups, fruits, meats, anything Faramir ever could have wanted. Faramir sat silently on the left side of the table, watched by the servants, and waited for his family to arrive. Boromir was the first to come in.
“Did you see it? Did you see me?” Boromir spoke with breathless excitement mimicking the paces he had been putting himself through earlier, though this time without the sword in his hand. Faramir nodded and smiled broadly.
“Soon to war, I think.”
“Yes, yes! Father will have to let me go to war soon. I am ready.”
Faramir neglected to ask what war. What did it matter? Any war would suit Boromir, even if he had to make his own.
Faramir shrugged. Denethor spent more and more time locked in his room, rarely seen by anyone but Boromir himself.
“Did you see him last night?”
Boromir shook his head, concern in his eyes. “He didn’t call for me.”
Faramir read his look well. “I am sure he wanted you. Perhaps he is ill and did not want you to grow sick as he.”
Boromir narrowed his eyes, thinking. “Yes. That must be it.” His smile returned and his excitement was stirred once again. As his brother went on babbling about warriors of the citadel, Faramir reflected on his lie. Denethor was not ill. He was sure of that. What he was, Faramir could not say, but he had hidden the truth from Boromir. There was something stirring deep within the heart of Denethor and Faramir knew it was evil. Whence it had come, he was not sure. However, he knew when it had started… when his mother had died. She had died early for one of her race and even though Faramir had been but five years old, he had felt her loss keenly. Yet none had felt it more than Denethor. Since that time, his hours in his room had grown longer and his heart had grown colder. Boromir seemed not to notice and Faramir saw no need to draw his attention to it. Let it lie and let there be peace.
As Faramir pondered these things, he heard a loud bang that startled him out of his contemplations. Boromir abruptly quit speaking and they both turned to see their father stalking across the wide floor towards the table. It was clear he was in a dangerous mood. His eyes were narrowed to slits, his face was pallid and his hands were trembling. He spoke not a word, but roughly caught his ornate wooden chair and thrust it aside so he could sit. Faramir glanced across the table at Boromir whose eyes were wide. Denethor moved his shaking hands and jerked a soup tureen towards himself, spilling half its contents. Faramir and Boromir echoed the silence of their father, Faramir nibbling on a piece of fruit and Boromir chewing slowly a leg of lamb. Neither brother dared say anything. Thus the meal progressed in utter silence until Faramir, who had finished long ago, rose to leave the hall. It was then that Denethor had stood, grabbed the soup tureen and sent it careening to the floor. Liquid and glass ricocheted off the floor in a million directions. Faramir had little time to comprehend this sudden action of his father when Denethor’s voice rang deep but loud in the grand hall.
“I see much.” The words came out haltingly, a pause between each. Denethor had been staring at the table since he had thrown the tureen, his palms on the table and his arms locked, hunched over like an old man. Now, after this strange phrase, his eyes had come to rest on his youngest son.
“I see much,” he repeated. His breath was shallow and hard. Faramir feared to look into the eyes that burned with fire at him. He lowered his gaze.
“You can’t even look at me like a man.” Denethor’s voice spit scorn.
“Father…” Boromir began to intervene, but one look from his father silenced him.
“You don’t know what I see! I know. I know.”
Neither Faramir nor Boromir understood what their father was saying and they did not ask his meaning. They knew instinctively that asking would have been inviting the bite of a hungry wolf. Faramir kept his eyes lowered. He thought he heard his father mutter something about a wizard, but the words were so low, Faramir could not be sure. Suddenly, Denethor reached out a tremulous hand and gripped Faramir’s sleeve in a tight grasp.
“I saw it. You will bring me nothing but pain. You will be my downfall!” His voice had begun low but risen and he screamed the last sentence. Faramir dared to raise his face and the eyes that met him sent ice into his heart. Utter hate covered the features of Denethor.
“I HAVE SEEN IT!” Denethor’s hot breath burned on Faramir’s face and before more could be said, Faramir managed to push Denethor’s grip aside and flee from the room.
He ran to his solace, where he always ran. His own hidden courtyard, a small, unused patch of grass sat surrounded on three sides by towering walls. Sitting down, he let out his breath and gasped like a fish that had been withheld from the water for too long. His chest ached and his head swooned. Trying desperately to calm his body he let his mind wander in and out of the tales he had memorized. Soon he regained his composure and found himself scooting back into a corner of his courtyard. Stories… lore… he forced himself to concentrate on them, yet thoughts of Denethor kept pushing their way in. Denethor had never liked him much and Faramir had not dwelt on that fact often. Still, never had Denethor treated him so, even when he was in the foulest of moods. Something nagged in Faramir’s mind, pushing at him, prodding him. Lore… stories… tales… It was in there. Denethor and stories. It was then that the thought struck Faramir so hard he felt the wind knocked out of him. Sitting straight and tall, he gasped audibly. He knew.
It was at that moment that Boromir had come flying into the solitary courtyard. He collapsed at Faramir’s side. He, too, was as out of breath as Faramir had been, but not because of Denethor’s words; Faramir knew he had run the whole way when he had been able to get away from the hall.
Boromir caught his breath and wheezed, “What do you think…”
Faramir interrupted. “The palantír.”
“What?” Boromir had been caught unawares by this unexpected statement.
“Anarion. The palantír of Anarion.” The horror of it was slowly overtaking Faramir.
“What about it?” The palantír of Anarion had rested in the White Tower for many years, yet no steward had ever dared to look upon it in fear of being seen by the Enemy.
“He’s looked into it.” Faramir turned his horrified face onto Boromir. “Our father’s dared to use it.”
Boromir looked seriously at Faramir for but a moment, then laughed easily. “Never. He wouldn’t do that.”
Boromir stood up and shook his head. “Come now, Faramir. Your head is too full of ancient lore and old women stories. No one looks into that thing.”
Faramir now stood himself, his voice urgent. “But if he has. Boromir, if he has dared do such a thing… it will kill him. He said he had seen. What else could it mean?”
Boromir now laughed again, loud and hard. “Then it has lied. You aren’t going to destroy our Father.”
Faramir’s heart was beating fast. “I am not surprised it would lie. But if I am not his downfall, it surely will be!”
“It won’t,” said Boromir. “Forget this story. This palantír. It’s foolish. Come. Let’s forget and play.” He reached out for Faramir’s arm, but Faramir backed away and stared at him.
“You’re not listening, Boromir!”
“I am. And it’s all foolish. The palantír, our father’s ideas, your ideas. Your lore of old. It’s useless.”
“All but the warriors’ tales,” snorted Faramir, looking at his brother, annoyed and not a little angry at being treated like a silly child.
“Those are worth something,” Boromir laughed heartily. “No, my brother. You are wrong. There is no palantír to worry about. Forget those tales that idle your brain… Come…”
And that was when it had happened. He could not have told you why he did it. Never would he have thought he could do it. There were no brothers so united in love as Faramir and Boromir. Yet in a moment of frustration that had built to rage, Faramir found himself clenching his fist and sending it careening into Boromir’s face. The strength of the blow was such that the elder brother fell hard to the ground. He sat still, staring up at Faramir, a look of shock in his clear grey eyes.
Faramir fled. He did not stay to help his brother up or to apologize. He just knew in that impulsive moment that he wanted to be as far away as he could. He wanted comfort and he could think of no place to go except the Houses of Healing. He had been there so many times before and inside their simple structures sat one who could bring him what he needed. He ran so hard his chest felt like it would burst and by the time he reached the room of the Warden of the Houses of Healing bitter tears were streaming down his face.
“Faramir!” Elboron exclaimed. “What has happened?” He put aside the medicine jar he was holding and grasped the young boy’s arms in his hands. Faramir wanted to tell Elboron everything and tried to speak it all at once, but all he managed to do was gasp and sob.
“Wait… wait for it to subside. Let it calm. Then we may talk.” Elboron’s voice was soft and even in his misery Faramir could not help but admire this simple man. Elboron had been the Warden of the Houses of Healing for a very long time. Faramir was not sure of his age, but the deep lines that carved out his face and hands spoke of a tremendous number of years. Faramir had known him since birth; Elboron had been the first to lay hands on him as he aided Finduilas, Faramir’s mother, the day he was born. He had lent his aid again, five years later, working tirelessly to cure Finduilas of what ailed her; but she had wasted away regardless. After her death, Denethor had locked himself up in his room for days on end, sharing not his grief with anyone, but calling to himself Boromir at times. Faramir had found solace in the Houses of Healing and especially in the tenderness of Elboron. Elboron had become a second father to him and it was his comfort that Faramir knew eased his sorrow in that dark hour. Since that time, he had gone to Elboron often, to learn of lore and to watch his skillful hands at work. Faramir had learned much of peace in Elboron’s company. The Houses of Healing did much to teach Faramir of compassion and pity.
Now, as his tears abated, Faramir saw that Elboron’s gaze held much sympathy for him. “I see in your face troubles and that of family.”
Faramir took a deep breath then nodded.
Faramir wanted to say it was his father, but Denethor’s words that had cut to the quick had been all but washed from his mind when he had struck Boromir. His brother had never treated him with anything but the highest regard. Faramir loved him as himself, even more so. Boromir had been his protector and helper at every point in his life. How could he have done it?
Allowing more air to flood his lungs, Faramir shook his head in answer to Elboron’s question.
Elboron raised his eyebrow sceptically. “Your brother?”
Faramir bowed his head and whispered. “Yes… Boromir.” And then the tale came spilling out: Denethor’s harsh words, Faramir’s suspicions, Boromir’s ignorance and the sudden punch.
Elboron listened quietly, though he grunted when Faramir mentioned the Seeing Stone. When it was all finished, Elboron smiled slightly, and then sighed.
“I suppose it would do no good to tell you, Faramir, that many brothers fight and very few live as you two have done.” He looked at Faramir for a response, but Faramir only stared at him. “I didn’t think so.”
“You see,” Elboron continued, “Family is a difficult thing. Most men never find true love within it. They seek for it, but it eludes them. Your father sought it and found it, but when it left him, he, too, succumbed to darker pursuits. What you and Boromir have found is a rare jewel: brotherly love. That is to be cherished and held dear all your days.”
Faramir lowered his eyes. Elboron was right. Still, his words did not ease the pain Faramir felt. Rather, his guilt increased. Elboron seemed to read his thoughts for he now put his hand on the boy’s shoulder and smiled tenderly.
“Boromir, too, holds this love for you. This is a love that is unconditional. This love forgives any offense.”
Now Faramir understood. If two brothers loved each other as much as he and Boromir did, nothing that occurred between them could destroy it. Yet Faramir dreaded to face his brother after what he had done.
“Give Boromir time. Then approach him. I doubt you will find him harsh.”
Staring up at the older man, Faramir found that he greatly wished he had this gentle man for his father instead of Denethor. As if his thoughts of Denethor had called the steward to appear, Faramir heard his name being yelled in the severe tones of his father. His anger was obvious to the ear and Elboron hastily stood.
“Here, Faramir! Be quick!”
Elboron pushed Faramir between his bed and the wall it rested beside. Faramir knelt down behind it and curled up, listening intently. Hard, heavy footsteps were heard and then the voice of Denethor spoke into the room, coarse and unforgiving.
“Where is he?!” The question rang in a vicious and demanding tone. Faramir had the image in his mind of a wolf that was desperate to devour its prey.
“Who are you inquiring after, my Lord?” Faramir heard Elboron’s steady voice answer with a question of his own.
“You know who!” Denethor’s speech boomed loud in the small room. “He’s come to you- his precious savior! Reveal him now!”
All of a sudden, Faramir heard Boromir’s voice, insistent and pleading. “Father, it was an accident. Please don’t…”
“Silence, Boromir! I know a cowardly blow when I see one. Faramir will pay for it. Now for you, Elboron, where is he?” Faramir heard the sound of a slap and he could abide it no longer. The fear that Elboron was suffering for his actions he could not bear. He stood up from behind the bed bravely and surveyed the scene.
Boromir was standing next to Denethor, his left hand on his robe, clutching at it in desperation. Faramir felt a sudden tinge of guilt at his brother’s swollen right eye. Elboron was standing in front of Denethor, several feet away from him. Faramir realized his error at once. Denethor had not struck the older man as he had supposed. Now, he saw that Denethor stood as the imposing figure in the room, his eyes flashing fire, drawn up to his full height, in his hand he held what appeared to be a white ashen rod, which he had brought down on the bed in his anger. Faramir knew what this forbade, but he did not run. He stood as still as an oak rooted in the soil for hundreds of years and turned his motionless eyes on Denethor.
All stood still for a moment, then Denethor, with a raging howl, leapt at Faramir. Boromir still clung to his robe, crying out, “Father, no!”
Elboron stood in front of Faramir. “My Lord, you don’t know what you are doing!”
Denethor was no match for the older man and pushed him aside as if he were a frail breath of wind. He reached out for Faramir, shouting, “You no good, lazy liar! How dare you lay a hand upon your brother! You will never be his equal!”
Denethor’s left hand gripped Faramir by his hair, hauling him away from the wall into the middle of the room. Faramir yelped at the pain that suddenly exploded inside his mind. He saw Denethor raise the white rod to strike, but his eyes then fell closed against the pain in his head. He heard the sharp slap of the rod, but felt nothing. Slowly, he opened his eyes. Boromir sat on the floor in front of Faramir, grasping his shoulder, tears welling up in his eyes. It took Faramir only a moment to deduce what had occurred: Boromir had stepped in front of him, taking the blow intended for him. Denethor cried out and let go of Faramir, collapsing in front of his eldest son.
“My son! My son! Forgive me!” Denethor had gone completely weak and knelt before Boromir, his hands on his shoulders.
Boromir spoke in a strained voice. “I am alright, Father. I forgive you.”
Denethor’s eyes were weeping tears and he looked as feeble and helpless as a dead blade of grass in winter. Elboron had already summoned two healers who were now helping the steward to his feet. Denethor seemed to be in a stupor, as one whose energy has been completely spent. Elboron spoke softly to the healers.
“Take him back to his hall. Let him rest now.”
After Denethor had gone, Faramir took his place, kneeling in front of his brother. Boromir stared at him, his right eye beginning to blacken, his hand still on his wounded shoulder. Guilt overshadowed Faramir, wrenching in his gut. All this had come because of him. Faramir slowly found his voice. He whispered.
“Boromir, please forgive me. I didn’t mean to… I just… I’m sorry.” Nothing sounded right to his ears. How could he beg forgiveness adequately for what he had caused the one he loved most in this world? His heart beat wildly and his stomach ached.
Boromir let go his shoulder and moved his hand to his brother’s arm. “I could never hate you, my brother. I was wrong to dismiss your misgivings. Perhaps they will be proved right after all.” Boromir glanced at the door as he said this, indicating the steward that had just left. “He is not what he once was.” Boromir’s face was hard. But as he turned back to Faramir it softened. “If you forgive me, I shall forgive you.”
Faramir nodded. “I do, Boromir. I do.” He could contain his emotion no longer. Boromir’s words had released his pent up fears and he began to weep uncontrollably. All the events of the morning weighed upon him and in his cries he found expression for the pains that had been caused. He felt Elboron lifting him up and laying him on the bed.
“Rest, little one. Be still for a while.” The old man’s kind voice entered his mind as he sensed something being placed under his nose and smelt a mustiness that tingled up his nostrils.
As he had many times before, Faramir found himself escaping into the peace of a deep sleep. The hate of his father that had wounded his spirit dissipated, his guilt diminished and his body began to unwind. As he listened to the muted song of the old healer, the room dimmed and he felt the tender caress of Boromir’s calloused hand on his forehead.
“Dear Faramir. If only our father hated me instead of you.”
Faramir did not comprehend the words spoken by his brother; he was concentrating on the sensation of Boromir’s touch. The song of the Warden was nearing its conclusion. Faramir heard it only as if from a far distance away. Darkness overtook him and the youngest son of Denethor, Steward of Gondor, found peace for a time.