The dining hall in the Healing House was not overly large or grandly furnished, but on one side there were a series of archways that served as both doors and windows and which were open to the gardens and the warm, sweetly scented air of late spring. There was a single table that ran the length of the room, seated at one end were several of the Healers and other patients, while gathered around the other Faramir was pleased to see Imrahil, Éowyn and Merry, His lady and the Hobbit were engrossed in some secret exchange and apparently quite amused by whatever they were discussing, judging by the smiles and giggles he observed.
However the giggles were replaced by delighted smiles and words of welcome when Imrahil rose and pulled a chair out from the table and invited Faramir to sit next to him. He accepted the offer only after he greeted Éowyn with a few whispered words of endearment and a brief kiss of her sweet lips. She blushed at the slightly less than proper behaviour, but paid it no further mind when she saw the indulgent smiles of those around her that plainly spoke of the relief and joy all felt to see Faramir so happy in her presence.
“I was expecting to see Pippin and Mithrandir here this evening as well,” he commented to his uncle, whose smile faded slightly, knowing the news he had to impart would not sit well with his nephew.
“Where are they? Is something amiss, Uncle?” Faramir asked sensing his uncle’s unease.
“Pippin and Mithrandir have returned to Aragorn’s camp, as I must do shortly. We begin our march towards the Black Gate at dawn,” he replied seeing no reason to be less than truthful.
“Why? Is the war not over?” Faramir asked suddenly feeling very confused at Imrahil’s slow shake of his head and the concern in his eyes. “Nay?” He asked with disbelief in his voice. He had truly believed it was.
“Nay it is not. The siege of Minas Tirith has ended and the dark forces have retreated, but the ring is not yet destroyed. We have been biding our time and gathering our forces and thanks to the information you provided for Mithrandir before you were…injured…” Imrahil said, choosing his words carefully and schooling his thoughts so that Faramir would see no hint of the horror his uncle still felt at what madness had driven Denethor to do.
“He now believes Frodo and Sam are close to achieving their goal so Aragorn has used the palantir to challenge Sauron, to distract him from learning of their presence, and we must seize the advantage and march on Mordor,” he explained sounding very much the experienced military leader of armies that he was as well as being a ruler.
“I want to join you in this battle,” Faramir said simply. He did not need to add the words, ‘for Boromir’ for his eyes glittered dangerously with thoughts of revenge.
“That is not possible. As a soldier and a leader you must realise that you are still unfit for a long march into battle and as the Steward of Gondor you are needed here to prepare for the King’s return. If another attack occurs, injured or not, you are the one who must lead the defence of the city. Keeping Minas Tirith from the hands of the enemy is the best way you can honour Boromir’s memory and extract revenge on the one who would see it fall.”
“I understand and will I respect the deeds of both Boromir and our King by gladly doing as duty demands,” Faramir replied, accepting the responsibility that now lay upon his shoulders with the pride and dedication Imrahil had fully expected his nephew would show.
“Then I will see you when I return, my dear Faramir,” Imrahil said as he rose to take his leave. Faramir stood as well so that he could embrace his uncle.
“See that you do return safely Uncle, my heart can not bear to suffer another loss,” he said, voicing his greatest fear. Imrahil’s eyes reflected his understanding of Faramir’s words and he nodded reassurance then kissed the younger man’s brow, and smiled a fond farewell as he strode from the hall.
“What have you there?” Merry asked, drawing Faramir’s attention away from the now empty doorway and pointing at the rolled up parchment with his fork before using it to spear another large slice of roast beef.
“What… oh this… ‘tis something of Boromir’s that I wish to thank you and Pippin for making,” he replied as he cleared a space on the table and unrolled the drawing.
“Oh this is a lovely place, where is it?” Éowyn asked as she moved to Faramir’s side to take a better look.
“This is the gateway to Rivendell, drawn so beautifully by our dear friend, this is the Last Homely House, and these two handsome creatures seated on the steps beside the brave son of Gondor are Pippin and I,” Merry boasted haughtily, raising his eyebrows as if daring them to dispute his claim. Éowyn and Faramir both laughed merrily.
“It is an excellent likeness of my brother and he wrote that you and Pippin are the ones who drew it. Apparently you are both graced with good looks and artistic talent,” Faramir teased.
“Not to mention great bravery in battle and skill with the sword, as well. These hobbits are remarkable beings,” Éowyn added in all seriousness.
“Aye we are,” Merry agreed shamelessly. “But any skills with weapons that Pippin and I possess are thanks to Boromir, who taught us well,” he acknowledged, raising his tankard of ale as he offered a silent toast to the fallen one.
Faramir and Éowyn did likewise. Faramir was about to ask Merry to tell him of Boromir’s lessons when he was distracted by a soft hand covering his and a sweetly voiced request to take a walk in the gardens brushing against his ear.
“As you wish, lovely one,” he told Éowyn as he kissed her fingers and allowed her to lead them outside. Merry smiled at the happy couple, pleased that his Lady had found one whose heart was free and very willing to return her love. He carefully rolled the drawing up and set it to one side, eager to finish enjoying his meal before returning the picture to Faramir’s chamber.
Concern for those who had gone into battle once more prevented Faramir from taking any rest that night, so after he had escorted a weary Éowyn to her chamber, he decided to read some more of the journal. It was such a lovely warm evening that, instead of staying indoors, he chose to sit out on the balcony.
...Faramir, I must apologise for not making any entries in this journal for quite some time, but for the last few nights I have had a very disturbing dream and have been preoccupied with trying to discern its meaning.
Perhaps if I tell you of it I will be able to think more clearly.
In this dream, which is more akin to a nightmare really, I see the White Tree burning and no matter how much water I throw on it, the flames are not quenched. I become frantic and look around in search of the King’s Guards to help me, but there is no one there. In my desperation, I cover the fire with my cloak, only to watch it turn into cinders that are taken on a foul smelling wind and scattered over the city, setting it alight. It is at this point I usually wake up, my heart racing wildly and tears of anguish and despair on my pillow.
Has the city fallen in my absence? Or is this some portent of the doom for Minas Tirith? I have no answer, but I do know that I sorely miss your compassionate ear and your insight.
What would you say to ease my fears, fears that I can not voice to anyone but you who knows me so well? Do I know you well enough to answer for you?
Perhaps you would say that my imagination was merely creating the scene I dreaded most, the fall of our city and the loss of hope of our people? Aye that might be so, I would reply, for this peace and light in this place only makes the turmoil and darkness of my home seem even more real and my fears well founded.
But nonetheless false, you would insist, have you not found our King who bears our hope in his blood and the sword of Elendil? The Halfling who will take Isildur’s Bane to its doom?
Indeed I have, my dear little brother, but when I lay awake in the darkness, the smell of burning wood in the air, the wisdom of your words eludes me and I can not help but be filled with despair. Were it not for those delightful Hobbits I have befriended, my days would likely be as dark and full of anguish as are my nights…
Faramir closed his eyes against the pain he felt for Boromir’s turmoil and he well understood Mithrandir’s anger, for there was no doubt the nightmares were some manifestation of the ring’s dark power. Boromir’s love for Gondor and Minas Tirith was being used as a weapon against him, and even if he did not already know the outcome, Faramir would have been forced to admit that it was indeed the one weapon that could break down his brother’s defences and bend him to its will.
...Ah, another lovely day in Rivendell, but I am beginning to think I have seen too many. I need to find some interesting way to pass the time and relieve my boredom.
Some of the Elves offered to take the four younger Hobbits fishing in a stream that runs safely within the influence of Elrond’s powers. I am no fisherman, and so declined the invitation to join them, preferring to accept old Bilbo’s offer of afternoon tea and a quiet chat.
I admit my decision was partly coloured by my curiosity about the ring and how it had affected him all the years he had carried it, but I was also interested to discover more about the reason for the barely concealed animosity that exists between Legolas and Glóin, the father of Gimli, the Dwarf chosen to be one of the Nine. Mithrandir was not inclined to discuss it but told me if I was really interested in events long past, I should read Bilbo’s book.
There was no need, for the elder Hobbit was more than willing to tell the tale. Very simply, Legolas’s father, the King of Mirkwood imprisoned the Dwarves Bilbo was travelling with, Glóin included, for trespassing in his realm and threatened to keep them locked in his dungeons until they offered a reasonable explanation for their presence.
“Tis the same way Théoden treat intruders into Rohan, and I see nothing wrong with it as a means of defence, bit it makes the feud between the sons understandable. We would be most annoyed with anyone who imprisoned our beloved Father...
Indeed we would Boromir, whether the prison is cold stone or the chains of evil influence and control, Faramir answered, thinking of the power that had sent his father into madness from which death was the only release.
...Our conversation then turned to the ring and Bilbo could not help but brag a little that he had used it to help the Dwarves escape from under Thranduil’s nose, and then again many years later to make his exit from the Shire.
(You see, dear Faramir, it makes the wearer invisible! What a boon that would be! One could use it to spy on the enemy leaders as they were making plans and none would be the wiser).
Bilbo also claimed that the ring had not affected him, and I saw no sign that he has turned to evil, nor has he taken it back to Sauron as Elrond fears may yet happen should Frodo lose the ring to those that seek it in their master’s name.
I think the ring had little power over Bilbo, and now Frodo, because of the Hobbits’ innate goodness and the fact that they have no inclination or reason to do anything remotely evil, or physically harmful. I can not imagine any of them deliberately killing anyone else, innocent or not, as sometimes the rest of us have done in the course of battle.
I think that is their strength, and recognising it, I am certain I could hold the evil at bay whilst I used the ring for good… for putting out the fire...
Faramir had to admit that there may be some truth to his brother’s words, but he could also see that Boromir was trying to twist the facts to justify the use of the ring whilst totally disregarding its ultimately darker purpose.
...Good news, Faramir!
“…I used the ring for good… for putting out the fire.”
This was the thought running through my mind when I fell asleep earlier tonight, and for once the nightmare did not trouble me, and in fact it changed into a good dream.
It still begin with the White Tree burning, but tonight I was able to put out the flames, not with water, but with a rain storm that I suddenly found I had the power to summon. It was such an exhilarating feeling to be able to keep the Tree and the city safe, and with so little effort. At first I had no idea from where I drew this power, but an image of the ring, shining beautifully in the glow of a warm fire came to mind and my answer was revealed...
Faramir slammed the book shut and carelessly threw it on the bed in his rage and his disappointment that Boromir seemed so easily swayed. He had believed his brother to be stronger than that, but it seemed he was inflicted with the same weakness as Isildur. Hoping that perhaps it just a momentary lapse, he picked the journal back up and turned to the next page, almost as afraid to read on, as he was not to.
...Please do not hate me, Faramir!
I have just reread that last entry in the calm light of day and can not recall writing it, although it was probably immediately after I awoke from my dream and was not thinking clearly. Who knows what scattered thoughts wander in our minds making us do and say things in our dreams that we neither mean nor intend to act upon in real life? Things such as, if I understand what the madman who wrote that nonsense was saying, that I was considering taking the ring.
How would I do that if not by harming Frodo in some way? I am no murderer nor am I a thief!
I did not give my word lightly when I promised the council that Gondor would help see the ring destroyed and so I shall and upon my honour, I am more determined than ever to do so!...
“I hope you never forgot that I would always believe you, and believe in you, dear Boromir. I wish I could have told you how proud I am of these attempts to maintain your honour in the face of such overwhelming evil, of your unspoken hope that you will vanquish the cause of your turmoil before your inner strength fails and darkness takes you,” Faramir whispered sadly to no one, voicing the thoughts that filled his mind and made his heart ache with their futility.