Written for Raksha's birthday, and beta read as ever by RiverOtter.
“If you will come this way, Lord Boromir, I will lead you to quarters where you may rest this night,” suggested the Elf who had met him at the door. “I am sorry that Lord Elrond cannot greet you himself; however, he is in conference with Gandalf and the envoy from Lord Círdan from Mithlond, and then he must check on the Perian Frodo Baggins, who has only this day awakened, newly recovered from a grave injury.”
The Man was puzzled by the last, not certain precisely what type of folk a Perian might be, but nodded without comment. The idea of being able at last to sleep in a proper bed--ah, but that would be sheer bliss at this time, as he’d had no such comforts since leaving Rohan. Even when offered a place along the way he had found himself relegated to haylofts or empty stalls in stables, for few wished to perhaps offer house-room to what might prove a sneak thief or one of questionable virtue. He did not blame the folk in these wild lands overmuch, of course--this was not his homeland, and few if any within the northern lands would have heard of the heir to Denethor of Gondor.
The Elf continued, “You have arrived too late for the feast held in honor of Master Frodo’s recovery, I fear. No matter--I will have food brought to your room, and Meliangiloreth will lead you to the bathing chamber when you are ready. If you will leave your clothing in the basket there, we will have it cleaned and returned to you, mended and refreshed, in the morning. I will advise you of this--that you have arrived in good time for the council to be held tomorrow. Indeed--many have come but recently to Imladris, it would seem by sheer happenstance, who all will likely prove to have an interest in what is to be discussed then.”
“And what is that?” Boromir was rather taken aback by how rough his own voice sounded in comparison to that of his guide.
The Elf gave an elegant shrug. “That will be revealed in its proper time and place--it does not behoove us to seek to solve the troubles of Middle Earth in the hallways of the Last Homely House at this hour of the night.” He turned, taking a passage to the right. “There is the way to the infirmary, in that direction,” he said with a nod further down the hallway they were quitting, “should you require such aid ere you leave us once more. Had we turned left rather than right we should have come to the lesser library and the way to the scriptorium, and if you require diversion ere you sleep you might well seek there. Certainly Estel often goes there when his thoughts keep him from sleeping easily. And one will be sent in the morning to bring you to the dining hall, unless you should desire to eat in your rooms?”
“No,” the Man said hastily, “to eat with the rest of those here would be suitable.”
The Elf nodded and led the way to a closed door, opening it to show a most beautifully appointed bedchamber. “There are robes that are sufficiently loose and comfortable to wear to and from the bathing chamber there in the press--simply choose whichever suits you. I believe there also might be small clothes there. However, it has been a time since I last examined the press’s contents, although I am certain our Lady has seen its contents suitably maintained. Meliangiloreth will most likely come to lead you to the bathing chamber soon, my lord.”
With that he stepped aside, turned, and left as unhurriedly as he’d come, leaving Boromir son of Denethor in possession of a room the likes of which not even his rooms within the Citadel of Minas Tirith could match. It did not appear especially large, yet it proved anything but small. Open curtains framed a doorway onto a balcony looking across the vale, and almost underneath him ran the Bruinen in all its fullness, the sound of it cleansing and steady, evoking a feeling of contentment. The bed, with its carved headboard depicting a great swan-prowed ship, reminded him of visits to Dol Amroth when he was a child. The chamber he’d shared with Faramir during such visits had boasted a large bed with such a headboard, and he and his brother had often played at pursuing pirates aboard that ship when they were supposed to be sleeping. Unconsciously he smiled as he stepped forward, glad to be reminded of that. Stripping off his glove, he reached out to run his finger over the carving of the forecastle, and as he thought of Faramir his smile faded and his expression became regretful. How they had last parted....
“Why did you claim this journey as your own?” Boromir could tell that no matter how apparently calm his face, his brother was in a most carefully contained fury, just from the tone in which the question was asked.
“Why not?” the older brother answered in as airy a tone as he could manage.
“You only reported you had the dream come to you to take this quest from me!”
Boromir turned to face Faramir directly. The younger son of Denethor was as tall as his brother, and had an archer’s wide and well-developed shoulders; but he did not have the breadth of chest or as fully muscled a torso as Boromir boasted. “Did I, Faramir? And how is it you are so certain?” His voice was far chillier than was his wont when speaking with his brother. “And it appears to me from what he revealed this day in Council that our cousin Húrin has also shared this dream, and perhaps earlier even than it first occurred to you.”
Faramir flushed, but he did not drop his gaze. He finally asked, “Why did you wish this quest for yourself?”
What was he supposed to answer? Because I saw more that I did not tell--that perhaps the one to go will not return? Because our father does not openly recognize that of the two of us you are the wiser and the better one in the end to rule Gondor when he is gone from us? Because I do not truly wish the Black Chair--I wish to die as I have lived, ever protecting the land we both love? His answer also was delayed. “I am stronger than are you.”
The rude noise Faramir made was reminiscent of those he’d been prone to make as a youth when someone said something he deemed beyond mere foolishness. “But I am the Ranger and not you. I am accustomed to living in the wild and following trails days old while you can barely catch a fish with rod and line and the hook baited by another! I am better suited to this quest than you, and both of us know it.”
“But our father gave it to me.” Then, after a moment of silence, he continued, “Do you so wish to be gone from him, Faramir? Does his constant criticism wear at you so?”
“And if it does?” Faramir’s voice was low, and spoken from between gritted teeth. “And if I would wish to see the northern lands for myself--learn how it is that those Elves who remain within Middle Earth hide themselves and their lands, search to see if any of our distant kindred yet linger there? Find if indeed there are such things as Halflings and to seek out the forges of the Dwarves? Do you deny me the chance to find answer the questions that have haunted my mind since my childhood?” He took a half step closer and said in lower tones still, “And if I would be free from the constant judgment on every choice I make, every decision considered? Once he trusted my choices, but no more. Nay, I deem he believes the darkness of the East can be truly kept at bay only with the flash of shining steel, and that you wield far better than I.”
Now it was Boromir’s turn to give derision a sound. “Nay, do not sell yourself short, little brother. I have the heavier hand with the sword I bear, but you are in the end a far better swordsman--faster on your feet, quicker to foresee where the next blow might strike from, more aware of those about you. On the night we fought upon the bridge in Osgiliath----”
“You saved my life thrice!” interrupted his brother.
“And you saved me at least twice that,” Boromir countered. “I did not see that small orc creeping up on my side, but you did, striking off his knife-hand and back to your own opponent before I could fully realize the danger I was in. As the battle takes me I have eyes only for the one with whom I fight, and so it is I must always fight by others that they watch my back. I only saw your danger those three times because for the moment there was none immediately before my face or under my blade.”
The two of them searched each other’s face, and at last Faramir straightened and relaxed. The anger was finally fleeing, leaving grief in its wake. “He will fear for you every moment you are gone,” he sighed, leaning back on the doorjamb.
“Perhaps, but he would fear as greatly for you, little brother.”
The younger Man was shaking his head, however, acceptance in his eyes. “You think so, Boromir? Nay, I deem that once he was aware I’d passed the Gap of Rohan and was on my way to be lost in the northern wastes he would put me fully from his mind and turn his thoughts again to questions of defense and preparation. I fear he is right, brother--that the end of this age approaches now at a gallop. He would be far happier with you at his side in this time of impending doom than to have me there.”
“Perhaps, Faramir, but I do not believe it is always a good thing to give our father what he believes he wants.”
Faramir’s face reflected shock at that thought.
Boromir gave a small smile. “Does that so startle you, little brother, that I at times might see myself as fathering our own father, seeing that what he wishes is not always what is best for himself as he did with us when we were boys? Nor do I believe that all he thinks best for Gondor is necessarily right, either.” Now it was his turn to step toward his brother, speaking in a low, intense tone. “He needs to quit his surety that you think too much, and to realize that much of the counsel I have given him that has proven best for the land originated in you. He needs to see that you are the wiser one of the two of us, both wiser and clearer sighted. He needs to accept that you are the truer of the two sons he fathered! He looks on you and for the most part he sees our mother reflected there--her generosity and gentle spirit and love of beauty. But he does not see that you are far more of his nature than I could ever be.”
He took one more step forward to whisper in his brother’s ear, “Do not put yourself out of his reach, for he will in the end rue the loss of you far more than the loss of me. Do not become distant from him--you are the better counselor, the more generous spirit. He will need you, Faramir my brother, and will remember with grief ere the end just how much he loves you. For all that he honors me the more openly, in the depths of his soul our father truly loves you the better because you are what he cannot be any more, since our mother was taken from him.” He stepped back enough to clasp his brother’s shoulders between his hands. “I love you both, Faramir, and would see the tension between you end. But it cannot truly be put behind by him if it ends only because you are not before his face day by day. Stay by him as he will allow it, and let not your wisdom be lost to him.” He smiled and slapped at one shoulder as he loosed them. “And I could not leave the land I love in better hands than yours. Continue to do well by her while I am wandering about, half-starved and increasingly ragged, in search of direction to Imladris.”
Well, he thought as he found a suitable garment in the press and rummaged through for small clothes, that last thing had proved true enough. Faramir had been right he did better in the wilds, after all. Had his younger brother been given the errand he’d most likely have found his way here months past, and probably would have recognized the signs of impending flood so as to wait until things were safe once more before crossing the river in the ruins of Tharbad.
A knock at the door heralded the coming of an Elf woman, as tall, beautiful, and elegant as the male who had led him here. “My lord, I am the healer Meliangiloreth. If you are ready, I will show you to the bathing chamber, and have directed that those who are to bring you a late meal bring it there that you might dine as you relax and soak away the weariness of your journey.”
He felt a smile stretch across his features as he bowed and indicated he would appreciate her company to such a place of comfort. He refused to feel sorry that he had deprived his brother the chance to visit so beautiful, comfortable, and hospitable a house.