Warnings: Implied sibling incest, Faramir/Boromir. If this bothers you, read no further.
Written in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love.
Written in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love.
Sometimes, I wish I’d been born in Dol Amroth. Home of my mother and mother’s kin, with the pounding sea and circling gulls, soft sand underfoot and soft nights worn smooth by a sea breeze. Home to love unstinted from uncle and cousins. Or that I could have been born in Ithilien, the wilds that I have grown to care for as a ranger and leader of men. Sometimes, Minas Tirith comes with too high a price for me to love it unthinkingly.
On days like today, for example, I can find it nigh on impossible to be happy in Minas Tirith. Usually the feeling lasts only a few moments. But it is in those moments when I wish I’d been born somewhere else. Perhaps what I’m really wishing is that I might have been born someONE else. This morning’s meeting with my father was another one of those moments.
Standing before the Steward, as he berated my lack of skills, my inability to be as strong as my brother, my failures in all things he valued at worth…yes, I wished myself away from the White City. Would that I had been born in Dol Amroth, that I had been born into Imrahil’s own family, instead of just being his nephew. Or that I could have found a home in a simple peasant’s family, such as used to be found in Ithilien, before the marauding orcs came. I have never thirsted for titles, for luxuries—a simple farmer’s family might have provided me with so much of what my own father would not give me.
Love. Not a sense of unremitting failure.
Denethor’s disgust for me was a mystery I spent years trying to unravel when I was younger. From childhood through adolescence, I always thought there must be something I could do to gain his affection, to be worthy of his praise. I saw him give both to Boromir without stinting, and thought that there must be some deed I could do, some test I could pass that would change Father’s feelings for me.
But after years of struggle, to master sword, shield, horse, bow, tactics, the strategy of warfare—all those things so dear to Father that I nearly killed myself to learn, thinking that surely this one, THIS one would wring a kind word from him—after the years of struggle…nothing. Had I followed my own heart, I would have become a writer, a historian of our age. Perhaps my love of books may make me one yet. But in my fruitless quest to gain my father’s love, I have made myself someone I am not so sure I like very much.
A killer. A butcher.
Gondor and Minas Tirith must be defended at all costs. Father has drilled this into every lesson I can ever remember about our war with the enemy. My love of Gondor and this city run deep, for my earliest and happiest memories are all in places here, in my mother’s garden, in my sanctuary within the library, even in the barracks with my men. And to protect this city, I must lead its men into battle, to see them kill the fell creatures of Mordor, and in turn, sometimes, be killed themselves.
As a captain of rangers, I must become a more efficient butcher of our enemies, or I become a killer of my own men. My mistakes cost the lives of men from Minas Tirith. And when I return to the city and they do not, the haunted faces of their wives, their widows rather, rise up to accuse me. The eyes of their children, their orphans seem to mock me for another failing, just as Denethor would.
And it is in moments like this that I truly despise living in the White City, of being charged with the care of this place. Anywhere, I would rather be anywhere other than Minas Tirith.
And just when I have wished myself for the thousandth time to Dol Amroth or Ithilien or even Rohan, just when I have wished myself into the family of some nameless peasant to escape Denethor and the blood on my own hands, I realize what I would lose by doing so. For were I not a protector of the White City, were I not the leader of men in the wilds beyond the Pelennor, were I not Denethor’s son, then I would also not be brother to Boromir.
It is love of Boromir that lifts my heart when I begin to have dark thoughts about Minas Tirith. But for him, I might have fled the walled city long ago; but for him I should not have had the strength to stand before Gondor’s steward and take the words that Father delivers like unconsidered blows upon me. It was Boromir who lent me his courage when mine failed, with Father, or with the families of men who died under my command. And who was it who taught me how to comfort a new-made widow, to soften the blow of her bereavement with words of praise for the fallen? It is my brother’s example, my brother’s love that makes these…horrors…bearable.
He has never seen me as a failure, or as a killer.
His love is as old a memory for me as my mother’s face. I cannot remember a time when Boromir did not love me, did not protect me, did not try to shoulder some of my burdens along with his own. My efforts as a youth to excel in arms or in horsemanship were as much to earn my brother’s praise as to earn my father’s. But where Father never granted me a crumb of his goodwill, Boromir lavished me with kind words of encouragement, even when my efforts were amateurish. He always loved me for what I could become, for my potential.
Ah, but my conscience insists on correcting me. He did not love me only for my potential as a soldier, or for my accomplishments as a young man. He loved me more than any brother might. Yes, more than a mere brother ought to, if all the moralizers of our age are to be believed.
Were I honest with myself, I would admit that it was more than just Boromir’s brotherly feelings that reconciled me to my fate as Denethor’s despised son and as reluctant protector of Minas Tirith. For it has been nearly ten years since I first, haltingly, admitted to Boromir my feelings for him, and learned with relief that he too wanted me as a lover, not only as brother or friend.
Since then, our nights together have been too few. The moments when we could shut the rest of the world away from us, shut the cares of the White City away from us, have come in clusters, separated by months at a time. Only when we lie together can we forget our responsibilities as sons of the steward, and simply be lovers. We can bear no lovers’ tokens, write no letters of undying love to one another. A secret passion we share, and the walls of Minas Tirith keep our secret. His lips, his taste, his hands, his touch could blind me to all else, save him. Boromir. Brother/lover.
The city of Ecthelion has provided us with havens away from our father’s overbearing attention. Have not the alleyways of the city’s night given us enough darkness to risk a silent touch, a quick embrace? Its gardens, yes, even our mother’s garden has watched us by moonlight as we spoke of our love and fulfilled our desires. The rooftop of the Steward’s House is our safe refuge, a shelter in the night where we can remain together through to the dawn.
I used to dread returning to Minas Tirith, with the anxious looks from soldiers’ relations pressed in upon our company (is my husband alive? does he return safely?). I would face with resignation the interminable interview with Father that always ended with his abuse, hoping not to tremble in his presence, the agonizing interrogation another black mark in the city’s blotter of my memories.
But when Boromir became my lover, I came to look on these dark moments in Minas Tirith as…a payment in kind. To experience joy in his arms required pain, my pain at the hands of others. Boromir would only laugh at this, I know it well. To ease my conscience, perhaps I think such a payment is required, for loving my brother more than I should. But they are payments I gladly make when I return to the City from long months on patrol. Minas Tirith has become the city of our homecomings, the place of our rebirths within each others’ arms. The White City is more than my home. It is my brother’s home, my lover’s home. And my love for the city is renewed, as our love grows stronger.