Beta appreciation notes for my astounding team: Kat – thanks for your incredible "waffly" reviews, for your enthusiasm and encouragement, and for being such a constant light. Bella – thanks for the expertise and the ever-Tookish excitement.  Special thanks to my inner circle who helped dig me out of my hole.

This one is for Shotboxer, who started me on this journey with her longing to see Boromir survive, and for all those who share her longing.

Disclaimer: No copyright infringement is intended. I don't own
these characters. This story is not meant to violate the rights held
by New Line, Tolkien Enterprises, nor any other licensee, nor is any
disrespect intended.


Ere The Final March

Chapter V – Brother’s Epilogue, As It Should Be

by Larrkin


Did it answer my question? What question? I couldn’t concentra – ah, yes! I’d asked Boromir how Legolas and Aragorn had helped him with his guilt.

Boromir had answered me, but he’d also told me more, so much more. I just stared at him, stunned to silence, reeling from his revelations. I just stared at my big brother, picturing how Aragorn and Legolas had disciplined him, what they were to him, how – how it was with them . . . and . . . and all I could do was stare at Boromir.

But I saw how my shocked silence affected him. Less than a minute had passed while I stared, but it surely felt like a lifetime to my brother. He watched me now, eyes dark with concern, waiting like a warrior fearing a dressing down – composed without, yet anxious within.

It made sense. My brother was indeed that tormented younger warrior Aragorn and Legolas knew. He was instantly ready to suffer criticism, expectation of reproach glistening in his eyes. And if reproach did not come from without, Boromir would create it within, that ‘fell beastie’ tearing at him, driving him to punish himself.

How insidious, that vicious force that still attacked my poor brother! He’d fallen at once into his pattern of judgmental harshness because, as Legolas had said, such was what Boromir knew best. Little wonder Aragorn and Legolas had needed to discipline him for this so often.

I was shocked to learn that he felt this way. But, even more shocking, I recognized the look. I’d seen that look on his face countless other times, but I’d never known that Boromir was masking an inner attack. How long had I witnessed it without discerning what he was going through? He was a master at hiding his anguish. A sickening shudder rippled through me and, like my brother’s two warriors, I could not bear it.

I scrambled up to sit beside him, ignoring the protest of my sore backside and I smiled at Boromir and hugged him, grasping him in a tight embrace. His arms closed about me, hesitantly at first, then with sudden fervor. He was trembling! I gasped. My big brother, trembling! But he had risked much with his honesty. Monstrous fell beastie, tormenting him for his courage!

"Yes," I said, my hushed voice quavering. "Yes, my brother, you answered me. And as to all you told me --" I drew back to look into his eyes, his uneasy gaze wrenching my heart. "Please, Boromir, listen to what you just said, or rather, what you told me Legolas said about you and me: ‘ . . . you would have wanted him to know that no matter what he had done, you loved him, and that you had never stopped loving him, and that you would never judge him or condemn him. You would want him to know that your love was unconditional, and that he could trust in that love with all his heart.’

"Now hear those similar words from me: I love you, big brother, no matter what, and I shall never stop loving you, and I shall never judge or condemn you, because my love is also unconditional. You can trust in that love with all your heart." I smiled again. "And hear your words to me in my own version: I respect you as I always have, Boromir, and you are as dear to me now as you ever were."

Tears filled Boromir’s eyes, and a quiver shook his powerful body.

"I know how you must have feared telling me this," I said. "You feared that I would judge you unfavorably."

Boromir shook his head quickly. "No, I-I did not think so little of you --"

"It is all right," I assured him. "In the end you did trust in my love, or you could never have taken such a risk. I suffered the same fear in confessing what I’d done to Frodo and Sam. That was no reflection on you, Boromir. I knew you to be forgiving. All my life you had been loving and forgiving, and I gave you much to forgive." I smiled quickly, excited now, near stumbling over my words, but hurrying on.

"But you didn’t know the details of what I’d done. What would you think of me? How could such cruelty be forgiven? Would you still love me? I couldn’t risk losing you again!

"Then it came to me – I either trusted in your love for me or I didn’t. And I could trust in it, did trust in it with all my heart! I knew that you would forgive me anything, that your love was not subject to my actions, but that it was unconditional love, as it had ever been and ever would be, just as my love was for you.

"I could share any darkness with you, even this one you were trying to spank out of me, and feel safe in the knowledge that you would not think less of me. Boromir, you had forgiven me my deed before knowing the details, just as I had forgiven you in my heart for whatever you had done to Frodo, regardless of what it was.

"As for the rest --" I grinned again. "I am overjoyed to know that you have found such happiness! I admit, it stunned me to momentary silence, but then you have ever been able to amaze me, my beloved big brother. And regarding the disciplinary aspect that has come with the affections of both your warriors, again, I am more than content."

He blinked at that, and I laughed softly. "Ah, so that surprises you." Quickly sobering again, I said, "I saw what your warriors called that ‘fell beastie’ reflected in your eyes, and I realized that I’d seen it before, often, though I did not know what it was. I felt what Aragorn and Legolas must have felt every time they watched it feed upon you, knowing what it did to you, and what it forced you to do to yourself. To watch one they loved suffer such torment --" I frowned. "They would do anything to drive that horror from you."

I grinned suddenly and reached around to rub my sore bottom, saying, "Such attention is the opposite of anger and hatred and cruelly dismissive indifference, is it not, big brother? It is a gift of love, and I am content in knowing that these two warriors love you enough to diligently give you such attention, for, Boromir, it is attention deserved."

My brother’s eyes again glittered with a soft sheen of tears. Another tremor shook him, a lovely tremor this time, and he gave a small quiet laugh, and shook his head slowly at me, his voice wobbling slightly as he said, "Ah, little brother. As ever, so graceful of speech!"

We grabbed each other and hugged again, urgently, fiercely, clinging to each other, both of us sniffling and releasing small bursts of sobbing chuckles. "My little urchin, eloquent as an elf," he murmured in my ear.

We stayed that way for some time, Boromir rocking us slightly, and when we finally pulled away we were smiling, a few tears running down our cheeks.

I caught one of Boromir’s tears on my fingertip and looked at him, asking, "What was it you did when Legolas had shed a few tears?"

Boromir grinned and took one of my tears on his fingertip. "This," he said, and he flung it away.

I did the same, then asked, "And why did we do that?"

"Legolas once awakened me from a nightmare, and I had been cry --" He paused, looking suddenly astonished.

"What is it?"

"My nightmare --" He blinked, barely breathing. "It was about you, about you . . . burning! You were burning, and I couldn’t get to you!"

"Ah," I said with a slow nod. "So you share a little of the Sight, my brother." He stared at me, plainly shocked by the notion. "Go on," I urged. "What happened when Legolas woke you?"

"He was seeking to comfort me, so he caught one of my tears on his fingertip, and he said that the tear was my bad dream, then he flicked it away like this." Boromir took another tear from my cheek and flung it. "Then he said that the bad dream was now gone."

We both chuckled softly. I said, "And being the great dunderhead you are I imagine you told him that such was too childish a notion for you."

Boromir frowned at me in mock irritation and tried to reach around to swat me again, but I wriggled away, so instead he shoved me down and tickled me lightly until I begged forgiveness for my sass, then he pulled me back up and said, "Aye. I did."

We both laughed. "I told him I was no child to be treated so, and Legolas said that such depended on one’s point of view. But he also said that, wherever you were, Damrod watched over you and I was indeed comforted."

"Ah," I said, smiling. "The wisdom of big brothers."

Boromir returned my smile. "I believe that is exactly what I told him."

After a quiet pause, I said, "So, now you also have a big brother."

"Aye." Boromir gave a wry smile. "A diligent one."

I laughed softly. "Best watch yourself, sir. Big brothers can be tiresome and I can scarce imagine the watchfulness of an elvish one." I snickered. "Again, ‘tis well deserved."

"I would not be so cheeky, little urchin," Boromir remarked. "I may have one big brother, but you now have three."

"So I’d feared," I said with a wince. "And two have already asserted their big brotherly duties over the past few days. Only one has yet to turn me over his knee and I have no desire to experience an elvish spanking, thank you."

Boromir chuckled. "Nay, trust me, you do not!" He studied me then, suddenly thoughtful. Brushing the wayward locks from my face, he asked, "None of what I told you . . . troubles you? Not even . . . not even . . . ."

"No," I said, knowing what he was asking. I sighed sadly at Boromir’s uneasy gaze. "No. None of it troubles me. Not even . . . none of it troubles me. As I said, it did surprise me, but I do not stand in negative judgement of you. You are still who you ever were to me, big brother."

I suddenly smirked and squirmed a bit, saying, "I suppose I cannot help clinging to that hero-worship I’ve ever had for you. Nothing you told me changes that. You are even more heroic now, for you told me of this, and that took great courage. You also accepted Legolas and Aragorn’s discipline. You must have accepted it. I cannot see them forcing it upon you."

He gazed off, then he said, "The first time Legolas disciplined me he gave me the choice of refusing. ‘Do you want this?’ he asked me. ‘Do you accept everything that comes with it? Do you want to be my little brother?’" Glancing at me again, Boromir blushed and said, "I was no dunderhead then. I accepted willingly."

Of course he would’ve accepted. Boromir had no doubt longed to be rescued from that torment. How he must have longed for that!

"And Aragorn?" I asked. "Did he also offer you a choice?"

"Ahh, Aragorn." Boromir shifted. "Nay, Aragorn did not offer me that choice. He was determined to make me understand that he was my superior on the Quest, whereas I was just as determined to make Aragorn understand that I was an experienced leader of men and that he should allot me a share of command. I had been challenging him over small matters from the time of Elrond’s Council, so Aragorn knew that if I continued to question his authority there would be constant turmoil on our journey. He could not risk that, so he decided to make plain to me who was in charge, and to show me what would happen should I give him trouble."

"But, you still had to willingly submit. Aragorn could not have overpowered you as Legolas could have."

"He did not have to try." Boromir grinned. "Which was fortunate for me as I fear I would have come out the loser in any physical engagement, little brother."

I scoffed. "Nevertheless, the only real power he had over you would be to threaten to exclude you from the Fellowship."

Boromir dropped his gaze. "He had a far greater power than that."

My brother paused, then he glanced up again and gazed off, saying, "From the moment I met Aragorn the night before the council, I had the sense that I’d met him before. When I asked who he was, he merely said that he was friend to Gandalf the Grey, and I said that we were there on common purpose then. But, suddenly, I got the strangest feeling that I knew this stranger.

"I hesitated, and watched him, trying to place him, then I noticed the Shards of Narsil on an elvish shrine, and I drew near, fascinated. I picked up the broken sword and held it, and I immediately cut my finger on the blade. Again, I felt Aragorn’s eyes upon me, and I instantly sensed, I knew not why, that he was fighting an inner urge to jump up and examine my cut finger, perhaps even swat me for my carelessness.

"It was a ridiculous thought! It embarrassed and shocked me and I slowly turned to stare at Aragorn. He sat there, gazing directly back at me with a smoldering expression and, I vow, I nearly felt swatted by just his look! I left in a hurry, muttering a snide remark and tossing the broken sword back on the shrine, not even turning to replace it when I heard it clatter to the floor. I cared not. I wanted out of there as quickly as possible.

"But I knew that I knew this stranger! I just could not remember how, and even when Legolas scolded me in the Council the next day and revealed Aragorn’s true identity I still did not rememb --"

"Why didn’t you simply ask Aragorn about it?"

Boromir grimaced and cast me an exaggerated frown. "Do not interrupt me, little urchin."

"Yes, sir. Sorry."

"In fact, Aragorn asked me the same thing." I had to grin, and Boromir grinned too, sheepishly. "I should have asked him. But I was too proud. I sensed that he knew the answer I could not find within me, and it irritated me, so I grew stubborn about the matter.

"But, my frustration finally won out. I blurted out the claim, ‘I know you!’ And I was right. Aragorn was surprised that I remembered him, though. ‘Aye, we were close, little fledgling,’ he told me. ‘But I thought you too young to remember me.’ I’d been a boy of only four years when Aragorn had been here in Minas Tirith. He had come as a mercenary, offering Grandfather his services. But Aragorn went by the name of Thorongil then, and --"

"Thorongil!" I cried. "Yes! I remember the tales of his exploits! Father never spoke of him, but Damrod did. Such stories he would tell me! My tutor even taught me of Thorongil’s strategies and battles in lessons about the military history of Gondor. So Thorongil was Aragorn! And you knew him! How splendid!"

Boromir darted me an indulgent glare. "Faramir, I --"

"Oh! I-I interrupted you again, didn’t I?"

He glared anew.

"OH! And again!" I winced.

Boromir cleared his throat with a practiced, ‘ahem,’ then said, "I know you are excited, little urchin, but --"

"I’m sorry, big brother."

"That’s it."

This time Boromir flipped me over so swiftly I didn’t have time to wiggle away. He held me down, tossed up my shirt and gave me four hard spanks, saying, "A swat for each interruption, bratling."

I squirmed and yelped four times. I thought to contest his count but I knew my brother. He’d likely say something along the lines of: "I counted wrong? Hmm. Perhaps you only interrupted me three times." SWAT! SWAT! SWAT! "Or did you mean that you interrupted me five times?" SWAT! SWAT! SWAT! SWAT! SWAT! "It seems unlikely you would point that out, though, so I will stick with my original count of four." SWAT! SWAT! SWAT! SWAT!

The cheekiness was tempting, but I was unwilling to risk the possibility of twelve spanks, so I settled for his count of only four, thank you.

Boromir flipped me over once more and gathered me up. "Any more of that and you shall go back over my knee," he said, fondly annoyed. "As I had started to say, I know you are excited to be learning all of this, but a little restraint, sir. A touch of courtesy. Now behave yourself, else I shall never get through my answer."

I pressed my face against him, unable to keep from smiling a little. "Yes, Bor’mir," I muttered, rubbing my stinging bottom again.

"To continue, unbeknownst to me as a child, Thorongil came with a worthy reputation. He was a veteran of other campaigns in other lands. His exploits had been known far and wide. Ecthelion respected him and Thorongil became a trusted captain in our grandfather’s troops.

"I only knew that he was good to me, kind and patient. He didn’t mind me trotting at his heels. I felt he cared about me, and that he liked my company, and I grew to adore him. I-I loved Thorongil . . . but, it is odd . . . I can recall few details of our time together. I had closed off that part of my life so thoroughly that even now it is near-impossible to remember much of it."

I lifted my head to look up at him and he glanced at me again.

"When Thorongil left Minas Tirith the pain of it broke my little boy’s heart," my brother continued. "I cried until I was insensible. Father turned me away from him, spurning me for days, ashamed of my behavior. Though Denethor had little time for me himself, he had nonetheless been jealous of Thorongil’s closeness with me, and he’d envied the way Ecthelion admired him. Our father resented him so intensely that Thorongil decided it would be best for him to leave Minas Tirith.

"But I did not understand all that. I felt I’d done something wrong; I had made Thorongil want to leave . . . it was my fault. I was heartsick and bewildered and, when he had gone, I was so . . . alone. I remember that awful pain, and I remember how I loved Thorongil, and I can remember a few of the things we did together, but the rest is locked away.

"So, that is why Aragorn seemed familiar. I remembered him, yet I didn’t remember him. When he told me I’d known him as Thorongil, some memories did rush back, and I did recognize him again. And strangely, suddenly, Aragorn was still Thorongil. I admired him all the more, that love I bore for him as a child still strong and unfailing, that hero-worship you spoke of alive within me. Legolas once said, ‘He is still Thorongil to you.’ And he was right."

Boromir paused again and smiled softly at me. "So you see, little brother, Aragorn had a most profound power – I submitted to him out of love and respect."

I nodded. Indeed, that was the most profound power of all.

"But, what Aragorn did to me when he spanked me that first time . . . it transformed me. He did more than simply establish his authority." Boromir grinned. "Although he did that quite effectively."

I watched him gazing off, fascinated by his serene expression, hoping he would continue. Finally I could not risk that he was finished, and I quietly said, "Please, don’t stop."

Boromir glanced at me, then looked off again, paused, then said, "After Thorongil left, and Father punished me with his disdain, the pain of it atop my grief in losing Thorongil was unbearable. I vowed to never again suffer the anguish I felt in disgracing Denethor. I resolved to do whatever I had to in order to never feel that way again. The times when I did earn Denethor’s displeasure were dreadful. He would shun me and foster my shame, and . . . and none of it made sense to me as a child. I could not see what he was doing. I did not feel that he was being cruel or unreasonable. I felt only the guilt for my failings and the pain of reproach. I was wrong. I was bad. I was a disappointment to Father.

"His voice became a part of me, that fell beastie, as Legolas called it. Soon, even if Denethor never knew of something I’d done wrong, I knew, and I would make myself suffer the guilt of it."

A sick feeling washed over me. No absolution for my brother! No way to atone! Only scorn to haunt him. Only Father’s disgust and dismissal hanging over him. Yes, he would have found ways to punish himself, desperately seeking some way to ease his guilt. My chest ached with quiet fury, but I held as still as I could, willing him to go on.

"But, coming back to that first spanking, Aragorn got me over his knee using good arguments. We had been talking of the halflings, how he spanked them, and how it seemed he had needed to do so often at first. I said I couldn’t imagine doing such a thing, and he asked, did I not care about them? Wouldn’t I do anything necessary to see that they remained safe? Clever, vile Ranger." He grinned at me. "Silver-tongued and shrewd."

"So I’ve seen."

"He said that the first time he had spanked all the little ones it was done to show them who was in charge. I asked, was it not enough to simply demand their obedience, and he shot the question back at me – was it enough for me?"

I groaned.

"Aye. Aragorn had me caught in a web of his flawless common sense, and I cringed, realizing that he had a fair point. After learning that Aragorn had been Thorongil I felt I had accepted his authority. But Aragorn knew better. He said that it was one thing to say you accepted something, and to know why it was necessary, but it was another thing to accept it in your heart and take it deep inside of you. He intended to do to me what he had done to the little ones, and for the same reason – so that no question of his authority remained in my mind, and so that I knew what to expect from him should I prove insubordinate.

"Aragorn rarely raises his voice. He does not need to. But the few times he did raise his voice to me – once on the side of a frozen mountain, once outside the gates of Moria when we had just escaped the mines and lost Gandalf, and once on the Great River when I challenged him about our course – I quickly backed down. So he had been right. When he had finished explaining the consequences of defiance, I had accepted him as the final authority in the Fellowship, with no further demands to share the leadership.

"But, the notion of enduring this manner of discipline from Aragorn --" Boromir paused to chuckle lightly. "It terrified me! It had been a long time since Damrod had disciplined me that way. The thought of this man I held in such high regard, Aragorn, son of Arathorn, Isildur’s Heir, turning me over his lap, pulling down my breeches, baring my backside and sp-span --" Boromir flushed crimson. "I was a grown-up! A warrior! Captain of the White Tower! The humiliation of being taken over Aragorn’s knee . . . imagine my horror, little brother!"

"I do not need to just imagine, sir!"

I instantly recalled the sensation of being stretched out over Aragorn’s muscled thighs just two days earlier, and how I’d protested when he’d started drawing down my breeches. Aragorn had been surprised when I’d twisted around, grabbed my descending pants and screamed, "No!"

"Surely, Lord Faramir, you did not expect to keep your breeches on during your spanking. Merry did not. Would you expect different treatment?"

"No, but, I – I – I - "

"Because I assure you, sir, that will not be the case."

"Oh, please! Please, my lord, allow me a small measure of dignity!"

"Captain Faramir, I allow you all measure of dignity, as you are certainly worthy of it, but I shall also pull down your breeches and spank you in your natural state. I have never disciplined a deserving soul in any other manner, and I do not plan to do so now."

Aragorn had pushed me back into position, grabbed my wrist, pried loose the clutched breeches and fastened my hand to the small of my back. "There are ways to do these things, and you will find me a man who enjoys the order of procedure whenever it is possible." Seconds later my bottom was bared. "When you are over my knee, young Ranger, nothing will remain between my hand and your backside."

"Ohhh," I now groaned, blushing furiously. "Yes, I do know how that feels, and I also know that the man is well skilled in the task."

"Aye. Tactfully put. And though I had vowed to not give in, well, Aragorn is, as you say, well skilled. It took a while, for I was vainly and foolishly stubborn, but he did indeed break me down. And he did so in such a way that I . . . I lost all control and gave up my costly dignity with no regrets. And then, what he said afterwards . . . what he said . . . that is what shattered me most."

"What? What did he say?"

My brother smiled. "Well, he said much."

"Please, tell me."

Chuckling softly at my eagerness, he said, "I will tell you some of it, little urchin. Aragorn said --" Boromir gazed off again, a soft peace stealing over his features as before, his voice low and gentle. "He said that I needed to understand and accept his authority on a deep level, as the little ones had. But, more importantly, I was there, over his knee, because I deserved to be there, and that he would put me there again in the future, as he was certain it would be needed.

"I tried to deny it, but he insisted that I most certainly would need to be spanked again in the future and that anytime I needed his attention I would be given it because I was deserving of his attention, just as I had been when a child. That was what shattered me, all he said about what I deserved . . . ."

He dropped his gaze to me. "More?"

"Yes! Please!" I exclaimed, fascinated.

With another indulgent smile, Boromir pulled me close, urging my head to his shoulder, needing, I sensed, to tell me this when I was not looking at him.

"Very well," he said. "But settle down, sweetling. You are fair bouncing, though I cannot see how, as your bottom must surely hurt."

I winced against his shirt, unhappy to be reminded me of my backside. I was now freshly aware of its hotly throbbing and well-spanked state. Alas for irksome big brothers! "Yes, Bor’mir."

Boromir grinned at my squirming. "Good. Now, some of the things Aragorn said." He thought for a moment, then went on: "He said that I was not over his knee because he disapproved of me, or because I disappointed him. He said he did not judge me, any more than he judged a hobbit or an elf. And he said he was proud of who I was and the man I had become.

"He spoke of you, too, little urchin, saying that I made certain you received my attention and care, but that the care I deserved was taken from me early. He apologized for leaving me as a child. He could not change the past, he said, but he could see to me henceforth. And I . . . I recall his next words exactly . . . or near exactly. He --"

"Oh, yes! Please! Tell me his exac – OWW!"

Boromir chuckled. "You left your rear flank unguarded, Captain. Now hush!"

I growled and grinned against his shoulder and rubbed at the sting of his fresh spank. "Yes, Bor’mir."

"To continue, Aragorn said, " . . . the little boy I see living in you still is a good little boy, worthy of my attention. He needs a loving hand to correct him when he misbehaves, for he is too brutal with himself if he feels he’s done something wrong. My fledgling shows compassion to others, yet he spares little of it for himself. But you will never escape my notice, Boromir. When you need my attention, you will be given it. When your mutinous air resurfaces, I promise you I will never think less of you for it. Nor for any other headstrong acts. Neither will I ignore the matter, nor cast you from my affections, nor make you live with your guilt. You will be attended to, just as you have been here, and then all will be forgiven and forgotten, until the next time."

I sat frozen, listening to Boromir repeating Aragorn’s beautiful words. Oh, how my brother had needed to hear those words! He had given that attention to me all my life, and yet he had been left alone with his guilt and his shame. But no longer!

A shudder passed through me, my throat tightening with quiet elation. Blessed Aragorn! Grasping Boromir’s shirt in my fists, I murmured, "Perfect words . . . perfect. Aragorn’s words were perfect. No wonder you recall such perfect words so perfectly."

My brother drew me back from his shoulder and studied me closely.

"Ah," he murmured. "Sam would call those ‘good tears,’ little brother."

"Yes," I said. "They are good tears, for Aragorn’s words were perfect."

"Aye." He watched me with soft amusement. "Perfect, as you have said. Repeatedly. But I had never heard such words spoken to me, save what Damrod used to murmur after a spanking. And I had not been disciplined like that since I was twenty, as you well recall."

"All too well. I never tried climbing the White Tower after seeing what Damrod did to you, though."

Boromir chuckled. "Good. Then my humiliation served a purpose."

"It kept me from scaling the White Tower, yes," I said, joining his chuckling. I quieted, then and said aloud what kept going through my head: "Blessed Aragorn."

Boromir nodded.

"And Legolas?"

"What of Legolas?" he asked, an indulgent light in his eyes. "Is my little brother still curious to hear more?"



I asked the question knowing the answer, so it was no surprise to hear Faramir cry, "Yes! I would hear all you would tell me!"

I could not help releasing another soft laugh. Faramir was yet again that unrestrained little urchin, touching my heart with his devotion and his yearning to hear more about his big brother, accepting everything I’d confessed without question, without judgement or condemnation.

I’d been flooded with relief from the moment he’d first grabbed me into a hug of such desperate intensity he’d nearly knocked the wind from my body. A warm jolt coursed through me, and I’d swallowed back a grateful sob and returned his embrace with a strength that made him gasp. But nothing could stop the sore lump tightening my throat and the tears filling my eyes when he started saying all those wondrous words in his softly mesmerizing tone.

And now, of course he wanted to hear more. Faramir’s little boy impulsiveness kept surging forth. He couldn’t stop interrupting, his excitement reflected in his bright eyes when he learned of Thorongil. Pure, irrepressible Faramir. I again saw him as that small lad, trying to keep up with my long-legged strides, fairly hopping along in his high spirits, his earnest little face turned up to me and his high, sweetly childish tone pleading, "Tell me more, big brother! Please, tell me morrrrre!"

I would tell him anything right now, so complete was my happiness. Well . . . nearly anything. But I doubted even this bouncing urchin would dare to ask me anything of an intimate nature; nor would he want to know more about that. Faramir had simply accepted it, again, without hesitation.

I concentrated better when he wasn’t gazing at me with that rapt expression, so I drew him close again, tucked his head to my shoulder and considered what he might want to hear about my elven big brother – ah! A fine place to start:

"Legolas started calling me ‘little brother’ quite unexpectedly one evening," I began. "He was telling me of his home in Mirkwood, about Thranduil’s court and what it was like to be Prince of his lands. ‘We have this in common, you know,’ he told me. ‘You are the heir apparent to your father’s station. You are like me in essence, a prince of your realm, little brother.’"

I heard Faramir smile, and I said, "I’d grinned as well. But, I . . . I liked Legolas calling me ‘little brother.’ I liked it at once. That confused me, and I felt my face grow hot, but neither Aragorn nor Legolas seemed surprised by my lack of protest. I’d glanced at Aragorn and found him smiling softly, just as Legolas was. Then they promptly feigned further disinterest, as though there was nothing further to say about the matter.

"When Legolas first called me ‘little brother’ in front of the others, the Fellowship accepted it just as lightly as my two warriors had. Gandalf and Gimli calmly appeared to take no notice, and the little ones just darted tiny grins at each other and said nothing. They all accepted it readily, and . . . it moved me."

"Of course it would," Faramir murmured. "In calling you ‘little brother’ Legolas was sending a silent message. He was saying, ‘I hold this man dear enough to bind him to me with a special name that I alone shall use. Henceforth, be it known that Boromir is beloved of me; he is my little brother; he is mine.’ Such favor is born of affection. The others would hear that message, and their fondness for you made them delight in your special treatment."

I paused, stunned. Ah, Faramir’s simple wisdom! He astounded me – though it seemed he always did, my insightful, masterfully clever brother. I gave him a fierce hug and kissed his head; then I went on, telling him of the mud incident that led to my first spanking from Legolas, a story that made him chuckle in places – until I got to the part wherein I’d near frozen to death washing out halfling clothing in the icy lake waters.

I felt Faramir stiffen and go still. I continued with my tale, admitting how I’d begun to punish myself because of my perceived failure to obey Aragorn’s orders to stay out of the mud. He relaxed again only when I reached the part wherein Legolas took me off alone to discipline me.

I told him of how I’d tried to fight Legolas, not realizing how powerful he was. I had heard legends of elven strength but, in my arrogance, I’d felt such legends were exaggerated. I then described the shocking ease with which he subdued me. Faramir, the impudent sprout, nodded against my shoulder.

"Mmmm," he muttered. "Good for Legolas."

"Good for --" I frowned down at him. "That will be enough of that! Legolas gave me a brutal first spanking, you saucy bratling. You need not be so sympathetic to the elf."

"But I am sympathetic to the elf, my brother," he replied with unapologetic calm. "And if you wish to discuss brutal spankings --" He reached around and rubbed his fiery backside.

He had a point. Nevertheless, I said, "Rest assured, I shall remind you of your sass and ask you again about your sympathetic feelings towards an elvish spanking after you have experienced your first one."

"You may never get such an opportunity, my brother," Faramir said with an impish grin.

I laughed. "Ah, little urchin. I know you too well. It is only a matter of time."

Faramir’s poorly feigned scoff of disbelief made me laugh again, then I said, "So, I assume that you would like to hear some of what Legolas said to me as well."

I had known all along that neither Legolas nor Aragorn would mind my repeating their words. They would encourage me to share anything with my little brother. They had clearly taken Faramir to their hearts, and they would be in favor of whatever methods I thought might help him. And I also knew what Faramir’s response would be.

"Yes! Please, Boromir, tell me!"

"I will endure no more of these impertinent comments in support of the formidable elf."

Faramir paused, then said, "Very well. You shall hear no more impertinent comments."

His message was not lost on me: ‘You will not hear them, big brother, but I will think them.’ Saucy bratling.

I thought for a moment, considering what to tell him, remembering how some of the darkness I’d shared with Legolas had been about Faramir. I wondered if hearing of that would trouble him, but then again, he would have to hear it . . . .

Finally I just began. "Legolas had intended to discipline me for punishing myself. He knew what I had been doing, something that amazed me, as I thought I had hidden my intentions well.

"But before Legolas began spanking me I blurted out that I knew he and Aragorn were disgusted by what I’d done and they were therefore through with me. Legolas was thunderstruck. It hadn’t occurred to him that I would think such a thing. He was horrified to realize that my sullen behavior and my desire to punish myself came from that terrible misunderstanding.

"So he held me close and he said something similar to what I’d often said to you, what you and I have said to each other here today. He said, ‘Boromir, you are as dear to me as you ever were, and to Aragorn. You have not left our affections. Indeed, if you had, we would not care that you had endangered yourself in icy waters.

"I’d been shocked. I’d expected scorn and isolation, dreaded it, and assumed it would be my fate. I was mourning the loss of the closeness I’d recently found with Aragorn and Legolas, so I was doing anything I could to punish myself for my foolishness, anything to make my suffering worse. I just wanted to suffer."

Faramir nodded. "Yes. I know the feeling."

"I know you do, sweetling. And now Legolas was telling me that neither he nor Aragorn blamed me. They had no intention of shaming me or withdrawing their affections! I could scarce believe something that wonderful.

"Legolas said many of the things I’d often said to you, things I’d never said to myself including one of the most important ones – they were not upset with me; they were upset with what I had done. I recognized those truths. I heard many of my own words coming back to me that day. I simply had never applied them to myself.

"It was when he put the matter in terms of another that I truly understood. He asked, if it had been him caught rolling in the mud with four halflings would I have judged him as harshly as I had myself? Of course my answer was no. I even agreed with him that I would likely have laughed.

"Legolas had been angry about what I’d done, yes, but he’d been fearful because of my near frozen state, upset that I would do such a thing to myself. He asked if I would have been angry with you if you had done what I had."

Faramir scoffed and I grinned.

"Indeed. He had me there. Legolas knew I would have been angry. ‘But would you have stopped loving him?’ he asked. Then he said, ‘Of course you would not have stopped loving him. You would be livid because you loved him so. His carelessness, his disregard for himself and his safety, would have frightened you, and fear often becomes anger when the danger has passed. And that is the anger you felt from Aragorn and me, precious brat, that anger born of fear.’"

"Again, he had used the example of another to make his point." I felt myself flushing at the words Legolas had used, like ‘precious brat.’ Glancing down at my silent brother, I again asked the question I already knew the answer to: "Have you heard enough now, little urchin?"

"No!" Faramir’s head popped up, his eyes wide with interest. "No! I’m trying to be good and not interrupt, but please, don’t stop! I especially like when you tell me the things Legolas said. To know that you have been given the same comfort and attention you always gave to me is . . . I-I cannot explain my happiness, and how much I long to hear all you will tell me of it. Please do not stop!"

I sighed and winced and shifted. I saw how important this was to him, yet I squirmed inwardly. I had indeed planned to speak more, moving gently towards the bigger, more important conversation we needed to have. I hadn’t counted on Faramir wanting to hear so many of these details.

But, hadn’t this been why I had told him my tale, revealing such a confidence to him in the first place? I had wanted to give Faramir what Aragorn had given me in telling his story of his brothers both spanking him. Aragorn had made me feel understood. He had exposed a private memory for my sake, so that I would know that he understood my pain and humiliation, that he had been through something similar; Aragorn had shared his disgrace so that mine would be easier to bear.

I had wanted that bond of sympathy for Faramir, and he had longed for it, asked me for it: "How did you come to forgive yourself, Boromir? Did Aragorn help you?" Learning details helped make this more clear to him, more real, and it helped him feel that understanding. Faramir had always been hungry to learn all he could of something. His eagerness for more was just part of who he was.

"Please, Boromir," Faramir now said in a hushed tone. "It cannot have been be easy to share all that you have, and it is no doubt ungracious of me to ask for more when you have already granted me so generous a look into so intimate a time. I am grateful. But please, my cherished big brother, if you would be so kind, please tell me more."

I gazed into my little brother’s pleading eyes and I knew that I would grant him anything it was within my power to give. I pulled him close and gave him a gentle squeeze. "Elvish eloquence as I live and breathe. Very well, going on, Legolas focused on what I would understand, and what I did not understand. I did understand how to be a big brother, but I did not understand how to be a little brother. So he made it clear from the outset exactly how it was to be between us.

"Mmmm, to share some of his words, he said, ‘. . . I call you little brother because you are that to me, because I care for you that much. I know you have never had to answer to a big brother, but those days are over, little one . . . I intend to show you exactly what happens to naughty little brothers when they have earned the displeasure of their big brothers.’

"Aye, your flinch is understood, my urchin. Those words sent a shiver up my spine as well. Legolas then said, ‘You and I are indeed equals in all areas save one – when you are in need of disciplining, I most certainly do outrank you. As your big brother this is indeed my role, and it is my right. And you are never to question my right again. Do you understand, little brother?’"

"Ohhhh." Faramir groaned into my shoulder.

"‘Oh,’ indeed," I said with a chuckle. "Legolas went on. He told me that it was not my place to decide my own punishments; nor was it my place to determine if I even deserved punishment. He said, ‘You judge yourself and assume an unfair burden of guilt, then you try to purge that guilt with punishment. But big brothers never punish, do they little one?’"

Faramir shook his head quickly, as though the Legolas speaking from my memory was questioning him.

"He said, ‘ . . . they know punishment is never deserved. Big brothers discipline lovingly. They do not judge harshly. Their love is unconditional, is it not, little brother?’"

"Yes. Unconditional," Faramir repeated in a whisper.

And now I had arrived at the place I had needed to take him, the place where I could speak to that which needed brought forth, but carefully.

Until now my brother and I had said little of Denethor. Our time together had been spent in conversation less taxing than the topic of our father, but we were merely dancing around a pain that yet loomed before us.

I’d already learned all there was to know about Denethor’s tragic end. Gandalf told Aragorn and Legolas and I what had happened over the previous few days as we hurried from the battlefield of Pelennor, a wounded little Merry curled in Aragorn’s arms, Legolas carrying a weeping Pippin.

Both Merry and Faramir were quickly seen to by Aragorn and his athelas. Pippin then nestled in with Merry while he slept, Aragorn overriding the Warden on the matter with one significant look, and I had stayed at my brother’s side. Aragorn saw to the other wounded warriors, Legolas assisting him, but they returned at my signal when Faramir began to rouse.

Though Faramir was a bit groggy from the sleeping draught, nothing could taint our weeping reunion. And when Faramir was once again sleeping, peaceably now, and Aragorn had done all he could with the others, he and Legolas had taken me to my chambers with them, closed out the rest of the world and held me between them on my bed as I’d sobbed out my grief over the tragedy of my father and all that we had been told.

But, thus far, Faramir and I had said little about Denethor. I had reassured my brother that I knew what had happened and we had held each other in shared sorrow, but we had been willing to let it go at that, avoiding the painful topic of Denethor for the present.

Of course, it could not be let go forever. There was too much to face, for Denethor’s influence yet lived within us both and we would both need to begin to heal from that scarring. Faramir was stronger now, and I felt we both could start this hard journey together.

I gathered my thoughts, then said, "Aye, a big brother’s love is unconditional. And I knew that. But I had not known it, if you understand my meaning. I had known it for you, sweetling. I had not known it for myself. I had not felt that cleansing forgiveness, save the times Damrod attended to me.

"But, before Legolas told me all about big brothers and little brothers and how I was never to decide that I needed to be punished, much less undertake that punishment myself, he had been determined to get at something I could not quite reach. He made me talk about what drove me to punish myself in the first place. He said, ‘ . . . there is an even deeper, more silent truth lurking behind the punishment you felt you needed. There is a deeper pain.’"

I felt Faramir tense, and I remembered doing the exact same thing when I’d heard those words from Legolas. I held my brother closer, and pushed on.

"I knew at once what he meant. I told him that I had wanted to make Denethor proud of me. The times when I had disappointed him, I suffered, for he would close me off and punish me with silence and denial of forgiveness. I learned to begin punishing myself, seeking to ease my own guilt. And I learned to crave Denethor’s praise. I sought it, hungered for it. I wanted to be that ‘golden son’ he doted upon. I loved the safety of that . . . but I also hated it. I . . . I hated it because of you, little brother."

Faramir’s grip on me tightened.

"I told Legolas how Denethor made me a party to your pain by means of his cruel and unfair favor. I hated how he used me against you. I-I hated him."

My brother tried to pull away, but I could not continue on if I had to see his eyes, so I held him in a firm grip and listened to that soft elvish voice in my head, urging me to remember this without feeling its ferocious pull. I could do this for my brother . . . I could do it for us both.

"Shh, little urchin," I said in a gentle voice. "This is a legacy of sorrow that you and I must now heal together, but first we needs see it. So shhhhh, we shall do this calmly, without suffering the pain of it. I shall try if you will. Agreed?"

Faramir drew a deep breath, relaxed and nodded. I kissed the top of his head, then went on, saying, "Legolas understood. He said that I both loved and hated Denethor, that regardless of his flaws, he was yet my father. I never stopped endeavoring to please him, which was true.

"But Denethor’s interests were akin to mine, so he reveled in my accomplishments. I did love the feeling of comfort that gave me, but I felt a measure of guilt in that --"

"Boromir, stop! Please! I must speak!" Faramir wrenched from my grasp, his expression determined and intense. "Do not blame yourself for the strife between Father and me! That is unfair! It is undeserved! Father’s ill will towards me was not of your doing. You did not further his dislike of me by pleasing him. You did not seek his favor or try to exclude me from it. You did nothing wrong. So do not carry the burden of undue guilt for being his chosen favorite, I beg you!"

"Faramir --"

"What you said before you began to tell your tale is true – Denethor was defective inside. His failings were of his own making. You said that Denethor did not care to be pleased, and you were right. Yes, his illness was his alone, and neither you, nor I, nor any power in Middle Earth could cure him, although we both did try.

"But I was not the only one who bore the burden of his sickness. In watching his cruelty you suffered as well, and you were just as helpless to do anything to make it stop. How difficult that was for you! I know. I saw you suffer it, big brother.

"But you were not to blame for that cruelty. Neither are you to blame for anything our father did or thought. None of it was of your doing and none of it was your fault! Denethor’s love was conditional, and I was never going to meet those conditions, but that was not my faul --"

Faramir stopped in mid-word, gaping at me. He’d heard himself. Finally. He heard the truth. My brother’s jaw dropped slightly and he blinked, his eyes going wide.

"I know," I murmured. "How wise of you, little brother. None of it was your doing, either. It had nothing to do with you, sweetling. And none of it was your fault."

Faramir looked to have stopped breathing. I pressed on, saying, "What is true for me is true for you, is it not?"

He still looked too stunned to speak, but he heard me.

"You knew that truth, Faramir, but you did not know it, did you? You knew it as truth for me – I should not blame myself for Denethor’s cruelty towards you, for I had done nothing to cause it. But you did not know it as truth for yourself – you should not blame yourself for Denethor’s disdain, for you did nothing to cause it.

"Remember what I told you earlier, little brother: Denethor chose to make you his object of scorn, and he made you feel that you deserved it. But you did nothing to provoke his choice and, Faramir, you never deserved his contempt.

"Aye, he was defective inside, but that does not excuse his cruelty, for his choices were his own. But understanding does bring a measure of comfort, and I think you understand now that you did not deserve Father’s scorn."

My brother gazed at me, spellbound by new thoughts, his eyes glistening with tears. I gave him all the time he needed. Finally he said, "I . . . I --"

"Shhh," I murmured. "You hadn’t known this for yourself, sweetling, but you do know it now."

Faramir nodded slowly. "Yes, Boromir. I-I know."

And suddenly I felt between us a great lifting of an anguish we had never before spoken of, never dared look upon. I knew that Faramir felt it, too. We stared at each other for a moment, then we flew into yet another sudden, fierce embrace.

"I do know," Faramir muttered, holding on to me as though afraid to let go, his voice thick with tears. "You’re right, big brother. We were not to blame for Denethor’s choices. None of it was your fault, and . . . and none of it was mine."

"Aye, little one," I said, returning his strong embrace. "That’s right."

Faramir rubbed his face against my shoulder. He wept some, sounding so very young, and I returned his tight embrace, again, giving him all the time he needed, and allowing myself that time as well.

"Ah," he finally murmured. "Ah, the wisdom of big brothers."


Drawing back to gaze up at me, sudden understanding alight in his teary gaze, Faramir said, "They taught you this. Aragorn and Legolas taught you this."

I nodded. "They helped me see it. They taught me of that fell beast within, what it was and what it drove me to do." I paused to smirk. "They will no doubt tell you that they are still working to help me best it."

"And they would be right." Faramir’s eyes went suddenly dark. "You do instantly lapse into it, just as Legolas had said you do in your tale. I saw it when you were awaiting my response to your story. You were feeling it then, were you not? You were hearing that fell beast’s roar."

I squirmed. "Perhaps. This began for me at a very young age, Faramir, right after Thorongil left and Father shunned me. It is a practice born early and therefore difficult to purge."

"I can imagine. My poor brother. Aragorn said they had to spank you nearly every day."

I frowned at him. "He was exaggerating of course!"

"And in your story Legolas said that you lapsed into that judgmental harshness because it was what you knew best, that it was part of you, that the moment you did something wrong you fell right under that cruel spell again."

I studied his intense look. This was not the way I wanted the conversation to go. I became a bit fretful. Just how many details had I told him? "Aye, little brother. I do know all this," I grumbled. "I told you the tale, remember?"

Undaunted, he continued: "Legolas said that he’d hoped they had cured you of it."

"Not only told you the tale, but lived it."

"But Aragorn said there was no cure, that you might always carry that small cruel shard within you."

"Do you plan to quote my entire tale back to me, little brother?"

Faramir paused, but he was clearly thinking, running my story through his head again, considering the details, no doubt remembering all the times he had witnessed me in the clutches of the fell beastie.

I sighed at him and said, "Aye. Aragorn spoke truly. These matters shall not pass lightly from me. I have lived with them for too long to simply dismiss them with ease. Faramir, you and I have a long journey of healing before us. But we are fortunate. We have many around us to help us. And we have survived much. We have both cheated Death. We will endure. I feel that truth within me. Do you feel it as well, little urchin?"

Faramir’s face relaxed. "Yes."

I smiled softly and said, "If, as you have said, I share a touch of the Sight, I draw comfort from that feeling, and from the sense that, no matter what darkness awaits us ere this great conflict ends, we shall triumph over it. When evil has been driven from our lands we shall have only our own darkness to conquer, and, as I said, we have an abundance of loving hearts around us who are eager to see to our needs."

Faramir looked slightly mesmerized. He thought for a long moment, then he returned my soft smile and murmured, "You also share that elvish eloquence, big brother, though you rarely seem to see it."

His grin widened at my immediate blush.

"And you blush like a hobbit."

"Saucy bratling." I ruffled his honeyed locks and said, "So ends my tale. Now I would have one from you. What happened when you heard I was alive? And what happened afterwards that made you question that truth?"

Faramir grimaced. "Didn’t Pippin and Gandalf and Damrod tell you all this?"

"I want you to tell it to me, little brother. They could not tell me all. And Pippin underplayed his courageous act before the Steward of Gondor."

"Well, concerning Pippin’s sacrifice, I was not present when the little one offered Father his service. Gandalf told Damrod and I what happened, or rather he made Pippin tell us."

"Then I would hear that version," I said. "When I had Pippin alone here in my room to thank him for saving your life I asked him for the story of how he came to be in the Tower Guard. He just shrugged and said that he’d offered Denethor his service, and that was that."

Faramir smiled. "How I love that little one! He completely charmed Denethor. And Damrod. And me."

I laughed softly. "Typical Took."




Another halfling! I stared at him, sitting there before the wizard, looking so small on that great white steed, another beautiful halfling, shyly trying not to meet my eyes. Gandalf realized at once that this was not the first little one I’d seen. He wanted to know everything about Frodo and Sam.

"Not here," he quickly said when I began to answer him. Damrod was suddenly at my side, appearing at the perfect moment as he always did. He suggested the Western Garden, one of the private sanctuaries reserved for the nobles, only a few minutes from where we were mounted in the midst of the chaotic courtyard.

The four of us rode to the small walled enclosure, leaving our mounts with the guards posted at the gate. Once inside the green, secluded garden I told the wizard all, beginning with Frodo and Sam’s release and the sly creature, Gollum, and where he was leading them. I bridled my words in front of the little one, but his wide green eyes filled with tears of worry nonetheless.

"Gandalf," he said, his voice hushed and grim.

The wizard stroked the halfling’s curls and said, "Sam is with him, Pippin. As long as Samwise Gamgee is with our Frodo, he will endure."

"Yes," I said. "The noblest of souls, Master Samwise."

I felt a tremor of renewed satisfaction, remembering Sam’s last words to me, then I continued on. I said nothing about spanking Frodo and Sam. It would be ill-advised to do so, and such information seemed unnecessary. But I told of their capture in Ithilien and of taking them to Henneth Annun, and when I reached the part in my explanation wherein I told Frodo that I was Boromir’s brother, and that he was dead, the halfling gasped.

"But Boromir’s not dead!" he cried.

I flinched and nearly lost my legs, a baffling flash of anger shooting through me. What was he --? How dare he!

Gandalf said, "Faramir, why do you thi --"

"I have the Sight, sir!" I growled at the halfling, hearing nothing but the roar of anger in my ears. "I had a clear vision of my brother in a funeral boat, dead, the Horn of Gondor broken! Do you dare to tell me that my vision is wrong?"

"Hang your rotting vision, sir!" the bristling brat shot back. "I’m telling you the truth! Boromir is alive! He came back to us alive and well, healed by the elves, and I think it most ill-mannered of you to disbelieve me! Is this how good news is received in all of Gondor? Ruddy Sight indeed!" Then he uttered an elvish expletive that made my jaw drop.

"Hold your foul tongue, Peregrin Took!" Gandalf thundered. "This is no place for your bratling temper! Can you not appreciate what a shock your news must be for Boromir’s brother? Have some sympathy! Give the man a moment!"

Turning to me he said, "Forgive this hot-headed young hobbit, Faramir. It is the second time we have been accused of lying about this very thing and his tolerance has worn thin. I know not what you saw in your vision, nor did I know you had seen a vision, but I am sorry to hear you suffered so needlessly. I assure you, had we thought any in Gondor might learn of Boromir’s ill-fortune, word would have been sent from Lorien that he lived.

"But what Pippin tells you is indeed true. Though Boromir was gravely wounded on Amon Hen, he was saved by the elves of Lothlorien. He rejoined our remaining Fellowship alive and most certainly well. When Pippin and I left Edoras four days ago your brother was standing just outside the stables, waving to us as we rode off. He remains in the company of Aragorn, who rarely lets Boromir far from his sight. So, peace, young Son of Gondor; your brother indeed lives, and he could not be in a better place."

I was too thunderstruck to speak. I cast Damrod a stunned look. His eyes glistened with tears. Damrod in near tears! And the truth of it hit me. Alive! Boromir alive! After my horrific despair, was it possible? Alive! I broke down, choking out a few hushed gasps, unable to control myself, even in front of the little one. I didn’t care. Boromir alive!

"Oh! I nearly forgot!" the halfling said. "Boromir told me to tell you something when and if I saw you. I don’t quite understand the message, but he said that you would. He said, ‘Tell my little urchin to stay safe until I return, and to remember what happens to young ones who try to scale the White Tower.’"

I did lose my legs then. I collapsed to my knees, shaking, staring at the flagstones through blurred vision, hearing my own staggered breathing and low sobs and a repeated buzzing in my ears – Boromir alive! Alive! Alive! Alive!

And then . . . then I felt a pair of small arms around my shoulders, and I lifted my gaze to see the wee halfling, Pippin, hugging me, studying me with a soft, compassionate gaze.

"There, there now, sir," he murmured. "It’s all right. Shhh. It’s quite all right to fall apart. Even mighty warriors fall apart. Your brother did sometimes. He did when he rejoined us." My arms went round him, his little fingers wiping away the few tears that raced down my cheeks. "Aye, my kinsman, Merry, and I wept, too. Boromir is dear to us, y’see, dear to all of us in the Fellowship. We love him, so I understand how you must feel. And I’m sorry I lost my temper. I’ve a wickedly short fuse. Please forgive me. Your brother spoke of you often with love, and I-I just so wanted you to believe us. We would’na lie to you, my lord. Do you believe us?"

I pulled him close, loving the feel of him in my arms, glad to have him to cling to, and I nodded and croaked, "Yes, I believe you, little one."

We stayed like that for some long minutes, my face buried in his soft curls and Pippin patting my back, which normally would’ve made me feel ridiculous, this little halfling comforting me. But, again, I didn’t care. It felt good to hold on to him.

"My lord," he finally said in a tight voice. "Faramir – may I call you Faramir? Faramir, I’m delighted you’re delighted, but I-I canna breathe, sir."

I released the halfling with a small chuckle and stood, wiping at my eyes. "Pardon my zeal, little one."

"Peregrin Took of the Shire," he said with a short bow of his head. "Now in the service of the Steward of Gondor. You can call me Pippin."

Pippin . . . and he’d mentioned Merry – ah, the Pippin and Merry of Sam’s story! So, this was the little one always going over Merry’s knee! But, what had he just said?

"In the service of --" I sank down onto one of the stone benches and turned to Gandalf. "In the service of my father?"

Pippin scrambled up beside me and cast the wizard a sheepish look.

"Yeeeees," Gandalf growled, his fond scowl locked on Pippin. "This impetuous hobbit is indeed in the service of your father. Your amazement is understandable, sir."

I raised my brows and looked at Pippin, who glanced up at me, shrugged and grinned. But there was much to share and not much time, so we all sat, and talked quickly. Gandalf learned that I had not yet spoken with my father since returning from Ithilien, but that Damrod had seen him.

"Somehow my father already knew of my vision," I said. "So Damrod was spared the duty of telling him of it."

"Aye," Damrod said. "Lord Denethor told me that he’d had the exact same vision as Captain Faramir’s."

"The exact same? Is that possible?" Gandalf asked me. "Has it ever happened before?"

I shook my head slowly. "No, it has never happened to us before, but I suppose it is possible."

"The same vision . . . most strange. Why would Denethor not tell us of this?" Gandalf looked off, solemn and reflective.

"He was too busy being furious with us," Pippin said.

"He became angry when you told him Boromir was alive?" I asked.

"Aye. Like you did, only much worse. Gandalf tried to tell him that Boromir was alive, but he would’na believe us. He just kept snarling at Gandalf, accusing him of flat out lying! And me, too! He had proof, he said, Boromir’s cloven horn and his own vision."

"But he said nothing of your vision, Faramir, nor would he tell us how he came by the horn," Gandalf said. "I asked him what reason we would have to lie, and why he would choose to disbelieve such wondrous news. But he had no answer. He was seething, clearly distrustful of my every word, saying that he knew the real reason I had come – to prepare the way for the one to follow who would usurp his power. He knew of Aragorn, and he said that he would not bow to this Ranger of the North. He seemed to become more and more maddened by my presence."

"He said he would be no wizard’s pawn, whatever that meant," Pippin added.

"Yes," Gandalf said in a musing tone. "I have been pondering that. He could only have been referring to King Theoden, possessed by Saruman through his minion Wormtongue, though how Denethor would know of that is a mystery to me."

"He never did believe us," Pippin said. "Ruddy Sight." Gandalf shot him a frown. "Sorry," Pippin muttered. "But, it makes no sense. Gandalf and I had been with Boromir, and yet Lord Denethor chose to believe in his own vision and the broken horn."

I turned to Damrod and said, "Tell them what my father said about the Horn of Gondor."

"When I asked Lord Denethor how he came by it, he said that the Sight had told him where to send a scouting party to seek it."

"The Sight told him?" Gandalf asked, his brows drawn downward over his piercing gaze.

"Aye, so he said. He sent a party of Gondor’s swiftest scouts to Amon Hen. They found signs of a great battle, many Orc carcasses, but no sign of Boromir. They did, however, find the cloven horn, just as the Sight said they would. They also found evidence of a small camp at the water’s edge, two elven boats and some scattered belongings, clearly left behind in a hurry. There were signs of a third boat run ashore, but it was gone. Lord Denethor understood this, for in both their visions, his own and Faramir’s, Boromir had been in an elven boat. Clearly whoever had tended to him had set him adrift over the falls and down the Anduin."

"But a boat wouldn’t have come out of those falls intact!" Pippin said.

"An elven boat from Lothlorien?" Gandalf said. "Yes, my lad. Indeed it would."

"Aye, so Lord Denethor said. So now he had his vision confirmed and a token of proof."

"That helps explain why he would not believe us," Gandalf said. "Denethor has reason to be distraught. But I fear his irrationality stems from more than merely grief. He shows a strangeness of manner as alarming as it is unpleasant."

"The men say that he disappears for long stretches, sometimes for an entire day, and none can find him," Damrod said.

"It is all most disquieting," Gandalf said. "Faramir, does the Sight manifest in the manner he describes? I have never heard of it sending anyone anywhere."

I shook my head. "Nor have I. Mine has never done so, but Father’s gift is more powerful than mine is."

Gandalf shook his head. "I sense an evil in this, though I know not of its nature."

I glanced down at Pippin. He looked up at me, his bright eyes soft and sincere.

"I’m not one to have much of a sense for things," he said, "although your father did seem strangely vexed by our good news and stubborn about not believing it. But, when I first saw him, in those moments before he got angry with us and started calling us liars, well, he looked so sad sitting there, and even after he started yelling at us, I just felt so bad for him."

Suddenly Pippin stopped and glanced at Gandalf.

The wizard was frowning at Pippin, though I felt he was exasperated rather than irate. "Go on, young fool of a Took," he rumbled. "Tell what you did next. Every word, my lad."

Pippin blushed and squirmed and dropped his gaze. Picking at the end of his little scarf, he said in a small voice, "Well, before I knew what I was doing, I stepped forward and said, ‘Boromir was terribly wounded while trying to defend us from many foes. As Gandalf says, he is alive, and I wish you could believe that, my lord Denethor, but as you have lost Boromir’s service, I offer my own, such as it is, in the hope that even duty as small as mine will bring you some comfort until he comes back.’"

Pippin looked up at me, hurrying on: "I just felt so sorry for him. After all, he was Boromir’s father, and I knew, y’see, I knew how terribly heartsick he must’ve felt, thinking his son dead like that. I remembered what it felt like when Merry and I thought your brother was dead. Merry and I loved him so and, well, this was his da! And to see this great man broken down like that, I just, I just . . . ."

Pippin huffed in frustration. "Aye, it made me angry that the man would’na believe us, but, well, when people are torn apart by sorrow they aren’t themselves. Your father was lost in his grief, and sometimes when that happens you get used to that grief, and you canna let it go very easily, the way you just had to argue with me when I told you Boromir was alive, even though you must’ve wanted to believe me. It seemed to me that Lord Denethor was in that place where he couldn’t hear us, and he was just so much to be pitied."

"I couldn’t do anything to help him believe us, but I wanted to do SOMEthing for him, and-and it just hit me – offer him my service. I canna say how I had the nerve, but I stepped up and did what I did, and even though my service wasn’t much to offer, it was something, and it seemed like the right thing to do, although --" He darted a penitent glance at Gandalf. "I’m afraid Gandalf didn’t quite think so."

Gandalf’s exaggerated glare was blatantly loving. "I should have blistered your backside, Peregrin Took," he growled. "I am trying to remember why I did not do so."

Pippin responded with a charming sulk, and Damrod and I exchanged indulgent half-grins, the little one acting as a sweet distraction during a troubling hour.

"So," I said, "that is how you came to be in service of the Steward." I glanced at Gandalf. "Perhaps you did not blister his backside because his act was a noble and selfless one. It was an act of compassion." I leaned down and kissed Pippin’s curls. "Bless you, Peregrin Took of the Shire."

The wizard ‘humphed’ and looked ruffled. Pippin cast me a quick shy smile, then he glanced at Gandalf again and went back to his lovely sulk. I smiled at what was clearly but ritual.

"Well," Gandalf muttered, "this young Took seems to have melted at least part of Denethor’s heart. He sent ‘round a livery last night and an oath of fealty for Pippin to learn."

"I’m to report later and swear allegiance and service to Gondor." Pippin winced. "I haven’t quite learned the whole thing yet."

I grinned at him and said, "I shall help you with it if you like. But now --" I stood wearily. "I must report to my father."

I dreaded this. It was going to be awful. Not only had Osgiliath fallen on my watch, but I would have to tell my father of the halflings, and of the Ring, and that I had let it go from Gondor’s grasp. I had done so without the Steward’s knowledge or consent, usurping the decision that was rightfully his. My father’s fury was going to be unimaginable.

I had, in essence, committed treason, betrayed my city and my duty, but the talk of my life being forfeit for releasing Frodo and Sam had been mere talk. My father could do no more than admonish me. That would be bad enough.

The others looked grim, their faces reflecting their foreboding. Pippin seemed utterly alarmed. He jumped down from the bench and said, "I’ll go with you, Faramir."

I smiled at him, touched by his instant willingness to support me. Earnest, courageous little soul! I suppose he felt that with him there as a witness Denethor might curb his fury in the interest of decorum. I knew better. I could not allow this sweet halfling to see what was about to take place.

I ruffled his curls. "No, little one, you cannot come with me, but I thank you for your brave offer."

"I shall go with you," Gandalf said. "Denethor must be made to understand that what you did was best for Gondor and all Middle Earth."

"No," I said firmly. "Thank you, Gandalf, but no."

The wizard looked dubious. "Faramir, I think it best you do not go to your father alone with this news."

"He will not be alone," Damrod said, already at my side.

I glanced at him, ready to object. Damrod wore his polite but smoldering gaze, the gaze that dared me to oppose him. I did not.

"I shall stand silently to one side, near the pillars," Damrod went on. "You may face your father by yourself. But you will see me from the corner of your eye. I shall walk in with you and walk out with you and stand witness to what is said."

And that was that. Gandalf and Pippin watched with relief, clearly understanding this kind of interaction and just as clearly approving of it. And so we parted company, agreeing to meet again after the dinner hour.

One advantage to being despised by my father is that it is difficult to sink any lower in his regard than where I already am. I was accustomed to my father’s disdain. But I was glad that Boromir would not be there to witness the meeting, for what was likely about to happen would have torn at my brother’s heart.

Armed with the inner shield I gripped any time I faced my father, I entered the Hall of Kings, Damrod at my side. My lieutenant moved to the corridor behind the pillars, matching my progress up the long hall to where my father sat waiting.

One would think that having a certain readiness for an attack would help make one more able to withstand the blow. I’d never found that to be the case. The blow still smarted.

I’d been prepared to suffer Denethor’s fury over the loss of the Ring, and his wrath regarding it was indeed profound. But when he insisted that my brother would have brought him this ‘kingly gift,’ I told Denethor what I knew in my heart to be the truth – the Ring would have destroyed Boromir. Preying upon his desire to do good, the Ring would have seduced my poor brother, turning him into . . . I knew not what.

My father’s rage exploded. Struggling to his feet, his staff drawn back and raised as a weapon, he bellowed that Boromir was loyal to him, not some "wizard’s pupil!" I instinctively backed away, Damrod stepping from the shadows. But Denethor suddenly faltered, stumbled backwards and fell against his chair with a weak cry.

I had always viewed my father as a big man, a powerful man, but in that moment he was, as Pippin had said, much to be pitied. My heart went out to him, this great man I had feared all my life. Yet I’d loved him, too. I’d longed for his notice, yearning for him to someday turn to me with that affectionate look he bestowed upon my brother, a yearning that had never left me. Now that man whose notice I’d craved lay sprawled beneath the Steward’s Seat, beaten down by grief and despondency. I felt for his pain.

I approached, murmuring, "Father," reaching out to offer him aid that I hungered to give him, and it was then that I saw what Gandalf had seen – that alarming strangeness of manner, though what I saw seemed to border more on madness. Denethor merely peered up at me, then a sudden frantic look of joy came over him and he struggled to rise, his limbs quivering, his breathing ragged. "My son!" he cried in a broken voice.

I should have realized he was having a vision. I know better than to indulge in foolish dreams. But just for an instant I let myself feel a sweet flash of hope. I let myself imagine that my father’s look of joy was for me.

Of course, it was not, and I saw it at once. Denethor’s gaze went past me, and I knew he was seeing a vision of Boromir.

Stupid. I was stupid to concoct such fancies. I do know better. I stood there, silent, aching, watching my father grin desperately and tremble in his mad elation. He stared beyond me, his rapture so authentic that I nearly turned, expecting Boromir to be there. And then, clearly, Denethor’s vision disappeared, and only I remained, and my father’s gaze slid to me.

All that Denethor had said to me thus far had been painful. Some of it was justified. I had indeed overstepped my station and denied Gondor a powerful weapon. Denethor saw himself as Gondor and to deny her was to deny him – a personal betrayal. And so my father’s disdain had been particularly venomous.

But when his vision of Boromir faded and my father saw only me standing there, his look of revulsion shattered me more than any words he could have uttered. His disgusted, "Leave me" said all he needed to say.

But I could not, as yet, obey him. I suddenly realized that we had not talked about something vital, and I had nothing left to lose by bringing it up. "Father, Gandalf said that he and Peregrin told you the news that Boromir is not dead."

"Yes. They told me." Denethor paused, then turned slowly and leveled a strangely intense look upon me. "I suppose you believe their tale. Perhaps you are willing to abandon what your Sight has clearly shown you, holding your gift in such contempt that you cast off its wisdom in favor of a wizard’s false witness. Are you such a minion of Mithrandir that you would believe him over what your own heart tells you?"

Startled to hear him asking me anything that had to do with my thoughts, I replied, "My heart and my vision are at odds with each other."

"Your Sight has never misled you before. Why disbelieve it now?"

I had no answer for him. I hadn’t been able to resolve the question myself.

"Tell me your vision in detail."

Still surprised by his interest, I complied with his order, and when I was done Denethor grinned in an eerie way that sent a shiver up my spine.

"I had the same exact vision, you know," he said in a hushed tone. "Down to the detail."

He gazed at me, his eyes glazed, a darkly teasing look of amusement on his face, as though he knew a secret he was delighting in keeping from me. And yet . . . yet, my father’s voice had sounded almost . . . kind. I was fascinated, drawn to it.

"Yes," I replied. "I know."

"Does it not seem likely that you and I would know of it if Boromir lived?" he asked. "At least one of us would have seen it. But I have not. Have you?"

I shook my head slowly. "No, Father."

"Hmmm. Perhaps we have not seen it because this tale Mithrandir tells is not true. Perhaps the wizard lies because he has another purpose in mind. He comes here to prepare our city for the coming of this Aragorn, son of Arathorn, he who would take the throne of Gondor, claiming to be the one true king, Isildur’s Heir. I do not believe this Ranger to be anything of the sort, and I shall not surrender my city and my people to the control of another.

"But Mithrandir comes, offering council, he says, cleverly bringing with him a comforting story of your brother, my beloved son being saved by the elves. The elves! Ridiculous! For thousands of years the elves have cared nothing for the world of men! Why would they involve themselves with our troubles now? The White Wizard insults us with such wild tales. He dishonors the memory of your dead brother, using him for leverage.

"And yet, you would believe him? You believe him with no evidence other than his word?" Fumbling through his voluminous robes, my father pulled forth the broken halves of the Horn of Gondor and held them out to me. "Here!" he cried, his voice trembling. "Here lies evidence to bear out the wizard’s treachery! What proof of his claim does Mithrandir offer?"

A chill rippled through me. I stepped forward and took the broken halves of my brother’s birthright. I stared at them, holding them carefully, nearly weeping at the sight and the feel of them. They were too real. I remembered seeing the Horn, attached to my brother’s waist when he would ride from the city . . . Boromir, tall and proud, ah, my majestic big brother! That was my big brother! The great Horn of Gondor was his! I’d seen it from the time it came into Boromir’s possession when he was twelve . . . I’d look at it, lying there on his bureau, the famed Horn of Gondor . . . I would run a finger along its intricate carvings, admiring its beauty . . . even as a cynical young man I respected Gondor’s history and her treasured legacies, and this heirloom was in my brother’s keeping . . . .

"Go ahead, little urchin. Pick it up."

"You’re sure?"

"Of course. You are always so polite to wait for permission. Go on, sweetling."

"It’s so big. It doesn’t bother you, swinging from your belt?"

"Nay. I am used to it."

"I’d love to hear you sound it one day."

"Nay, little brother. I hope you never do."

I gazed now at the broken pieces, hearing the horn again in my mind as I’d heard it not long ago, just before I’d had my vision. My throat was tight and sore and I felt myself shaking. I felt I was going to be sick.

"You are holding evidence," Denethor said. "That, coupled with your Sight and with mine makes a strong case for the truth of our shared vision. How can this wizard’s lie compare?

"And while you are thinking of that, reflect as well on this last consideration – if what Mithrandir says is true, why did he not simply bring your brother here? Who better to bespeak an urgent cause than Gondor’s favorite son? Surely those who decided to send only a wizard and a halfling would have realized that Boromir was the best choice as an advocate!"

I gazed at Denethor, confusion clouding my thoughts, the horn filling my hands. Yes, it seemed clear. Why wouldn’t Gandalf have brought Boromir with him?

"Do you know what Mithrandir said when I asked him that question? He said that Boromir’s path lay with this Ranger, this Aragorn," Denethor snarled. "And he gave some feeble excuse that no mount in the great stables of Rohan could match the speed of this Shadowfax, this wizard’s beast. More nonsense! More artifice! More confirmation of treachery!

"Boromir would never have made such a choice! And my son would not have survived death only to rejoin this Ranger. Boromir would have returned posthaste to Gondor, to the city he loves, eager to serve her over any other. Stay with this Ranger and his doomed cause?" Denethor snorted. "Never! Boromir’s first loyalties were to his father and to Gondor!"

Denethor took the broken halves of the Horn from me and returned to his seat. My hands felt empty. My chaotic thoughts flew. Something did not make sense . . . something was not right. I couldn’t think straight. Denethor’s voice was seductive and alluring and I longed to seek more of that gentler tone from him, but something small and insistent within me protested . . . .

Suddenly I heard Pippin’s voice: "Tell my little urchin to stay safe until I return, and to remember what happens to young ones who try to scale the White Tower." Ah! Yes!

I knew that to speak up and challenge Denethor would likely end whatever was causing him to show me this sudden and mystifying measure of interest, but I could not stay silent.

"Father, Peregrin gave me a message from Boromir, one that could have come from Boromir alone. The little one was most sincere. I believed him. I do not think he could have lied to me so convincingly. And I still do not understand why you feel Gandalf would lie to us.

"There is much I do not understand. I do not understand why these things have happened, nor why Boromir was not chosen to accompany Gandalf, nor why you and I had the same vision, and why that vision has been proven false. There are many questions I cannot answer, for your arguments are sound.

"But I also think that Boromir would choose to remain where he could do Gondor the most good, even if that meant returning to the Ranger’s company rather than coming home to Minas Tirith. We cannot see all ends. But we can trust in Boromir, trust that he would know where his courage and his sword would best serve Gondor.

"Therefore, what harm is there in trusting Gandalf? His council seems to be to our benefit. If Aragorn is indeed Isildur’s Heir, you hold this city in trust for him. If he comes and is proven false, he will be cast down, but if he is indeed the true King, Gandalf brings us tidings of hope and of promise. So, is there not wisdom in taking Gandalf’s counsel on faith? Surely any aid offered to Gondor is aid we must welcome."

As I’d expected, my father’s visage twisted again into the frowning glare I knew all too well. "‘Aid we must welcome,’ you say." He stared at me, his eyes hard and glittering. "Such as the aid of a halfling I believe to be lying to me? Such as accepting his offer to serve Gondor, though I do not trust his words?"

I blinked, sensing something ugly. "Yes. Why would you do that?"

Denethor’s smile was frightening. "You claim I have ‘sound arguments.’ You have held your brother’s broken heirloom in your hands. And still you choose to say that our visions have been proven false! You reveal where your loyalties lie, forsaking both me and your Gift. But that comes as no surprise, for I have ever known your worth. I owe you no explanations, however, I shall give you one, as I feel you deserve this."

My stomach tightened and I braced myself to accept yet another blow from my father. Denethor did not disappoint me.

"When Gandalf stormed from here I had no intention of accepting the hobbit’s offer, charming though it was. But after they had left I pondered their words. Both of them seemed sincere. A wizard’s defenses are hard to see through, but the hobbit was lacking any guile, and I sensed in him no deception." He paused, his gaze, usually so certain, now drifting and vacant.

"Then I understood the simple truth of it . . . and all became clear. So I had the livery sent to Peregrin’s room with a note including his oath of fealty and the time today when he was to report here to swear allegiance to Gondor."

I was baffled. "You understood what simple truth? What became clear?"

Denethor’s gaze sharpened on me again. "I understood that Mithrandir and Peregrin seemed sincere because they were not lying. Everything they said was true." He leaned forward. "But the Sight is more than merely a means by which to see what is beyond our ken. It can also be a tool of prophecy."

I froze. A horrible chill shot through me.

"Ah, now you understand," Denethor said. "Whatever befell your brother happened after Mithrandir and the hobbit left Edoras for Minas Tirith. What you and I saw was not something that had already taken place, but something that was going to happen in the future and has now come to pass. Our visions were genuine. The Sight did not fail us. It has shown me this new truth. Boromir is indeed gone . . . my beloved son is gone."

Once more, I nearly fell to my knees. I had no words. I had no thoughts. I had only emptiness. To have lost my brother once . . . then to have him returned to me so briefly, then to lose him a second time . . . I had no words.

"The halfling is an innocent," Denethor went on. "His offer of service was made with honor, and I shall reward that honor by accepting it. But, as for taking what Mithrandir says on faith, while he may not be guilty of lying about your brother, he has been less than forthcoming about the genuine reason for his presence here. I shall not so readily trust a wizard who comes before me with half-truths and trickery! He said nothing of this Ranger. I did that!

"Clearly your loyalties lie beyond the concerns of your city and your people," Denethor sneered. "So trust in the wizard as you choose, but I will keep my own counsel. And now, Captain Faramir, now you will leave me."

Trembling, I turned from my father, bearing this new shock with my customary outer calm while within my heart splintered and my mind reeled. I had known Boromir was ‘alive’ for less than an hour, but his sudden loss for a second time was just as ferocious a pain as when I’d had my vision, the first time my brother had ‘died.’

No . . . incredibly, this was worse. To have lost him twice! It felt more horribly real, more horribly final, more horribly indisputable. I could not argue with my father’s Sight.

A cloud of despair rushed to blanket me, enshrouding me once again in darkness. And, as I had before, I closed a door on those splintered pieces of my heart, unable to endure them all at once. I would suffer them at my own bidding. I knew how to do it. I’d done it before.

Damrod joined me at the door, but there was nothing to say. We were both weary and sorrowful and Denethor’s latest cruelty – testing my loyalty before revealing what he knew – had been particularly punishing.

But Damrod stubbornly tried to argue on: Perhaps Boromir’s fate had not yet come to pass! There might be time to get word to him, or to those with him. I appreciated my lieutenant’s brave search for a solution, but aside from the obvious obstacles in simply finding Aragorn, much less doing so in a timely manner, what would such a message to Boromir say? "Denethor and Faramir have had a vision of your death, so beware?" Short of placing Boromir in a protected room, what could be done? Would such a message do anything but create fear? No. As ever, Damrod did not easily surrender the field, but he did now.

"We should say nothing to Gandalf and Pippin," I said as we passed the withered White Tree.

"Nay. There is no point. Such news would only bring them pain. I do not wish to see the look on the little halfling’s face when . . . ."

I placed a hand on his shoulder. "Nor do I."

I retired to my rooms to be alone with my grief, but found I could not bear it there, so I went out and wandered aimlessly for hours, finally ending up roaming the corridors of the Citadel. And there I came upon Pippin, sitting on a stone seat outside the Hall of Kings. I paused in the shadows, watching him for a moment.

He had on my old livery, the one I’d worn proudly as a child. Pippin looked utterly fetching. How perfect that my boyhood clothing would help to keep him safe. At the highest level of the city, the Citadel was the last stronghold, the Tower Guard its final line of defense. Pippin’s post would shelter him from danger until the last.

He was going over his oath, faltering so endearingly I had to smile, and he was muttering about this ‘Merry,’ who he was certain would react to his impulsive deed as Gandalf had – and with more painful consequences.

Watching this charming little one sit there, swinging his legs, I was suddenly saddened, thinking of the truth about Boromir that Pippin did not know. But, again, I closed off all save this moment, so that when I approached Pippin and began to speak I did so with good humor and he suspected nothing. I stumbled but briefly: "Boromir was always the soldier. They were so alike, he and my father . . . ."

"You mean that Boromir IS the soldier," Pippin quickly corrected me. "And he IS like your father. Boromir’s alive, remember?"

"Ah. Yes. Thank you, sir," I said with a wry grin. "Force of habit."

Then kind-hearted Pippin told me that he thought I had strength of a different kind, and that someday my father would see it. I knew better, but I smiled at him nonetheless, then I sat and helped him with his oath, and when he was called into the Hall I went with him. I did not think Denethor would be so heartless as to tell Pippin what he had concluded since their last meeting, but, if he did, I planned to be nearby to help the little one.

Pippin managed his oath well, though he seemed strangely hesitant about kissing the Steward’s ring. But Denethor was, thankfully, charmed. And I did end up helping the little one. My presence gave Denethor the chance to indulge in his old game of favoritism, Pippin taking Boromir’s role. As I had once told Boromir: "He has you to love and me to spend his bitterness upon. It cannot be said that I serve no useful purpose, big brother." So Denethor had me to turn his malevolence upon, a fine target, and a finer distraction.

But my father found new depths of the underworld to drag me through in those moments following Pippin’s oath. Still raw inside with the fresh wound of Boromir’s second death, I had few reserves left to draw upon, and Denethor’s vicious words, his outright admission that he wished I had died and Boromir had lived slashed at me so fiercely I could not hold back the tears that filled my eyes. Something gave way inside me as it never had before.

I suppose I’d been nursing one last spark of fragile hope – the wish that Denethor would turn to me with that affectionate look I so longed to see. A little boy’s voice echoed within me, ‘Please, Father, you have one son left! I know I am not my brother, but let me yet be your son!’ I suppose that no matter what torment a parent visits upon a child, that child never stops hoping that someday he will be seen, perhaps even loved.

But Denethor made it clear that such would never be. My father wanted me to, quite expressly, go forth and kill myself.

It was the final arrow to my heart. Suddenly, nothing mattered. Nothing. And I saw no point in failing to obey his last command to me. Perhaps my death would please him as my life never had.


"I left the hall without another glance at Pippin," I said. "I could not have endured seeing the expression that must have graced his innocent features after witnessing such a scene."

I went on to briefly tell Boromir of leading the troops through the city streets, Gandalf crying out to me that my father loved me. Then there had remained only our last ride across the long expanse of Pelennor, the charge to our certain deaths.

"I was glad to hear that Damrod had been imprisoned," I said. "He had never spoken against Denethor, although witnessing Father’s cruelty over the years must have been difficult for him to stomach. But he knew we were being sent to our deaths, and that, if ever he was going to challenge the Steward, it was going to be then.

"I heard that he spoke his mind most freely," I continued, "telling Denethor that he was a murderer, that he was killing his own son who had done nothing save trying to please him all his life. Father gave Damrod the worst possible punishment he could have given my steadfast lieutenant, locking him in the stockade for treason, forbidding him to ride with me, even unto his death."

Boromir had listened to my tale as quietly as I had listened to his. I knew it would have been hard for him to bear, but he remained unwavering, never asking me to stop or saying that he’d heard enough, allowing me to speak on as I would. And I suddenly realized that, in talking of it, in being allowed that release, the anguish of it had eased, just as my sore bottom helped ease the anguish of my guilt.

I lifted my head and looked at my brother. His eyes were red, evidence of quiet weeping still on his cheeks.

"Quite a tale, little brother," he murmured.

"But hard to hear, I know."

"It needed to be heard. And you told it well. You rival Legolas in storytelling." He studied me for a moment, then said, "But you are not quite finished, are you?"

I shook my head. "No."

Struggling into a sitting position, still holding on to Boromir I pulled up my last memory: "Little went through my mind as we formed up and rode from Minas Tirith, although I remember hoping that my end would be swift. Then there came a hail of arrows flying towards us, and then pain, and then there is no more . . . until."

I paused, trembling, my brother watching me closely. I closed my eyes to see it more clearly.

"Then I was lying in the Tomb of the Stewards. Such pain! Was I dead? But there was a great fire, and I saw Father in the flames, up on a high place, in the fire, and yet the danger of that wasn’t in my mind . . . all I saw was Father, his eyes, his face when he glanced down and saw me watching him. He looked . . . he looked relieved, and gladdened. And he said my name on a joyful, broken cry: ‘Faramir!’ And I saw it! I saw that affectionate look he had never before directed my way."

I lowered my head and wiped at the tears on my cheeks and slowly opened my eyes, seeing that look on my father’s face. I would never forget it, and I smiled quietly now as I had then. "There it was, Boromir, lighting up Father’s face, that look I’d longed for all my life, and it was for me! And, for that one moment, that last moment, I felt like his son, I felt that he loved me . . . in that last moment, Father loved me. And I smiled at him."

I lifted my gaze to Boromir, saw more tears swimming in his eyes as they were in mine. "In the end, I was his son," I murmured. "And . . . and he loved me."

Boromir smiled and smoothed the stray locks from my brow. "Aye, sweetling. He did. And such is as it should be, little brother, for there is much to love. Denethor indeed loved you. He always had. You were his son, thoughtful and quick of mind and gentle of heart, reminding him so of our mother. You were, as you told me he himself said, ‘lordly and gracious as a king of old.’ He used those words to torment you, but deep inside Father admired all those virtues you possessed. He did know your quality, little brother.

"What you saw in the end was true. That part of our father also existed, and it came forth in all its honesty during his final moments. You at last received that attention you deserved, and had ever deserved, little brother."

He drew me close again, and for a long time we simply sat, Boromir rocking and murmuring small phrases of comfort in a no-nonsense tone, repeating that all would be well now; that we could trust what we felt in our hearts, that we would endure, and that no matter what darkness yet awaited us, we would triumph. Nothing, not even athelas in the hands of Aragorn could match the healing power of a big brother’s love.

After a while he murmured, "Would you like to say it, little one?"

I grinned against his chest. "Ah, the wisdom of big brothers?"

"Is that a question?"

"No, my lord. ‘Tis elvish eloquence, or so I hear."

His chuckle rumbled through his chest, then he pulled me back and gazed at me, swiping at the wetness on my cheeks. "Shhh, enough of these for now. As I said, you and I have a long journey of healing before us, and loving souls to help us, and there will be time." He grinned. "We needn’t make that entire journey this morning. Do you not grow weary of tears, sweetling?"

"Yes," I said answering his grin. "Although I have been advised that it’s quite all right to fall apart, and that even mighty warriors fall apart."

My brother’s smile widened. "And how would anything regarding mighty warriors concern you, baby brother?"

"I also have been advised that you sometimes fell apart, such as when you were reunited with certain little halflings."

"Certain little halflings talk too much, but the mighty warrior part makes more sense now."

We laughed, then Boromir grabbed me and hugged me fiercely for what seemed like the hundredth time that morning, but no matter.

I grinned and said in a sweet brogue he knew well, "My lord. Boromir – may I call you Boromir? Boromir, I’m delighted you’re delighted, but I-I canna breathe, sir."

My brother burst into fresh laughter and let me go and I watched him, loving the sight of him so happy. I sighed and said, "So now both of our stories have ended."

"Nay, little urchin. Both of our stories are just beginning."




End of Part V; Brother’s Epilogue – As It Should Be

Ere The Final March to be continued . . .