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Tales of the Wizard's Apprentice (G) Print

Written by Susana

20 November 2010 | 12086 words | Work in Progress

Title: Language Lessons
Series: Tales of the Wizard’s Apprentice Part 2
Author: Susana
Feedback: please use form below
Rating: PG-13
Warning: AU. Spanking. Some torture of orcs (not graphic), oblique mention of torture of Haradrim. Mention of what is abusive treatment of Faramir by members of Denethor’s staff. Overall, this fic is dark, because a lot of Faramir’s childhood was bleak in the DH AU. Please don’t read if that doesn’t appeal.
Disclaimer: All characters and everything else belong to Tolkien.
Summary: Faramir, age seven, learns how to speak orc, Haradrim, and deceit.
Beta: None. Written quickly when the idea struck, so there may well be mistakes.
A/N: This is not a light-hearted story. This is the Faramir who learns to keep his own counsel, who learns how to hide things even from those who love him, because he knows no one can help. Gandalf doesn’t show up in this one, though it was his idea that motivated Faramir to write the essay that brought Denethor’s attention to Faramir.


Part 2: Language Lessons

That which does not kill us makes us stronger.
– Friedrich Nietzsche

The orc screamed again, then shouted a string of syllables that made the scribe beside him shrug, bored.

“Nothing to report to your father in that, Lad. I don’t know why the torturers bother – can’t get any sense out of these creatures.” Faramir was quiet; he disagreed with the torture, and the orc’s curses wouldn’t make it end any faster.

Another burning brand held to the creature, and the orc screamed and cursed again. Faramir remained silent, stone-faced. This was his second month being required by his father the Steward to watch the “interrogators” at their work, prompted by the Lord Denethor’s disgust with a recent essay of Faramir’s, suggesting possible ways to tempt the Haradrim away from their alliance with Sauron. The ideas expressed in the essay had been partially Mithrandir’s, who had asked Faramir to put them to Denethor somehow, as Denethor would not listen to Mithrandir. Faramir had worked very hard on the essay, producing such a fine product that he knew his tutor would show it to his father. Faramir’s plan worked. It had been the first time Denethor had taken any note of his younger son in the past two years, and Faramir was now resolved to avoid such attention in the future.

“Hey, soldier.” Called his father’s scribe. “Can’t you move on to the humans you captured with this bunch? You’ve been at this for an hour and I’ve nothing to report to Lord Denethor.”

“Hold your horses, Master Scribe.” The most experienced of the torturers lectured. “Hearing these tough creatures scream weakens the will of the Haradrim and other outlaw scum.”

“Try to speed it up, at least.” The scribe asked.

The next time the heated metal touched the orc’s skin, the creature cried out an explanation.

“More gabbledy-gook.” The Scribe complained.

“He just said that he accepted the southron’s money to attack the men on the road because he was hungry.” Faramir disagreed. “Its been a long winter and his clan had no food.”

The torturers put down their implements, and the scribe dropped his quill. “Lord Faramir,” the Scribe gasped, “Can you understand these creatures?”

Faramir had already weighed all the pros and cons of revealing that he’d learned the orcs’ tongue over the past few months before translating the orcs’s last pained cry. “Aye, I can. I am good with languages. You may confirm that with any of my tutors.”

The scribe’s look turned calculating. “Do you also speak the southron tongue, my Lord?”

Faramir, suppressing his first response of “much better than you, you lazy misbegotten excuse for a scribe,” instead answered ingenuously “Aye, Master Scribe. I’ve been studying it and have mostly translated the southron captives’ statements much as you have, these past few days. But I know I am but a student, much younger and less knowledgeable than you, and have not wanted to waste your time with my foolishness.”

The scribe straightened, taking Faramir’s humility for true feeling rather than flattery. “That’s right, Lord Faramir. I am very important, and my time is valuable. I have other important duties to attend to.”

Faramir nodded, keeping his eyes wide and innocent, and concealing his inner comment “like spending a few hours with your mistress.”

“Perhaps, since you also understand what these enemies of Gondor are saying, I can leave writing down their statements to you, while I engage in other important duties.” The scribe continued officiously.

Since this was the outcome he wanted, Faramir would agree, but he knew he must not seem too eager. “Oh, I would be happy to help, honored Scribe, but I am not sure if I can do it quite as well as you.”

“I’m sure your best effort will be fine.” The Scribe said haughtily, eager to use his now free afternoon to visit the young lady at the inn on the second level of the city whom he so admired. “I will check your work over before I hand it to your father, so he need not know you have taken so much upon yourself.”

The scribe departed, leaving Faramir with the bemused torturers and their unhappy subject. “Interrogators,” Faramir reminded himself, “Interrogators. If I slip and call them torturers again in the Lord Steward’s hearing, he will order me punished by his Treasurer again. I’ve no desire to feel the man’s belt again. I must be careful, circumspect.”

One of the more clever of the guards pointed out, “Good riddance to that whinging scribe. But you should know, Lad, yon scribe’s too lazy to rewrite your notes in his own hand, and your Lord father’s no fool. He’ll know you’ve been writing the accounts, and question the scribe as to why. You’re not to be unaccompanied, and it could land you in trouble.”

Faramir shook his head and explained politely. “I can write in the scribe’s hand writing instead of my own. My father has never…noted the discrepancy, before.”

The guard shrugged and went back to his unpleasant work, dragging out the next orc for questioning.

The interrogations proceeded quickly that afternoon. Faramir now spoke much better Haradrim than the scribe, and the soldier in charge of the intelligence gathering was a decent enough sort, only requiring the captured enemies to repeat their statements once or twice before believing that they were, indeed, telling the truth. Faramir himself could tell when the men were lying, it was in their eyes. Faramir didn’t want to be in this dungeon, witness to these men’s and creatures’ pain, at all. But he had no choice, and he would not demean their suffering by turning his head from it. More, he had a responsibility, hateful as it was, to make sure the blood that was being spilt in this room was not shed in vain. Some of the information these enemies had, was truly needed by Gondor’s military. Other captives were merely unfortunates, caught in the wrong place at the wrong moment.

In time, the interrogators would grow to trust their young, unwilling witness, and would cease trying to wring more information from their subjects when Faramir reported that they had the whole truth. But these soldiers of Gondor did not yet know Faramir well enough to accept his sworn word, so Faramir would not yet speak up. He would bide his time until he might be heeded, slowly dropping hints that he could read the truth in the eyes of others’, as could his father.

Since the torturer’s work was done in half the time it normally took, Faramir had several hours of free time. Time when none of his tutors or his new, brutal arms-masters would be looking for him. After delivering the promised information to the scribe’s in-box, Faramir went up to his chamber. First thing, as he always did after watching the interrogators at their work, the boy threw up. Then he laid an essay in progress on his desk, and arranged his bed to look as if he had decided on a quick nap before dinner instead of finishing his homework.

Nodding at the completion of his preparations, the young Lord of Gondor then hopped nimbly onto his window ledge, and jumped to the ledge of the next closest window a level down, which he knew looked in on an unoccupied room. Using a lockpick to disengage the window lock, the seven year old boy crept in, and then opened a hidden tunnel which led to a lookout point on the side of the mountain. Faramir free-form climbed down the side of the mountain, which put him outside the city. Faramir took a deep breath of the fresh air, and grinned, trotting toward the field on the Pelennor where he knew his brother would be this day, practicing jousting with his fellow students from the academy.

On the way to his destination, the boy stopped to wipe some dirt on his face, disarrange his hair, and turn his tunic (which bore the arms of the House of Hurin, differenced by the label of a second son) inside out. For good measure, he rolled down a hill. When Faramir arrived at the field where the academy students were jousting, he blended in perfectly with the other children of city-folk who had come to watch the spectacle. Faramir’s light hair would have made him stand out, save that it was quite dirty, and that there were a fair number of other light-haired children among Minas Tirith’s population. Faramir’s light hair was the legacy of Prince Adrahil’s wife, his long-dead grandmother. That of the other children was probably from Rohirric heritage, judging by their knowledgeable commentary on the horses ridden by the cadets.

When the cadets were riding back toward the city, Faramir joined the other children in cheering them through the gates, thereby entering the city unquestioned. He then parted ways from the group of children, who were going to a nearby park, and headed for an alley that ran beside the dormitory of the cadets in his brother’s year. Climbing up a gutter, Faramir jumped along the window ledges until he reached the window into the room of Boromir and his friends. Tapping on the window first, Faramir then opened it, calling in without looking, “Its me. Is everyone decent?”

A few swears – one his brother’s – and several softer cries of greeting met Faramir’s ears. Taking that as a “come on in,” the slender seven year old jumped down from the window ledge.

Boromir, bathed and half-dressed, gave his younger brother an exasperated grin. “Did you see me unhorse the trainer?” He asked Faramir proudly.

Faramir grinned hugely, happier than he had been since the last time he’d managed to sneak down to see his brother a month ago, and enthused “I sure did! It was a neat bit of jousting, and he sure was shocked! I hope I’m as good a rider and jouster as you are, someday.” Faramir finished, a bit wistfully.

His brother’s best friend Gendarion laughed. “I don’t know about that, Faramir, but I think you might already be a better archer than our “Golden boy,” Gendarion cuffed Boromir gently o’er the head, and returned to dressing for their last class before dinner.

“What are you doing down here, anyway, Fara?’ Boromir asked with some concern. “I thought you said Ada changed your lesson schedule around.”

“He did. It was that one scribe I told you about tutoring me today – he left me translating some Haradrim work I’ve done before while he went to see his mistress, so I’ve a few free hours.” Faramir explained.

Boromir shook his head. He wasn’t sure if it was possible to get Faramir to stop sneaking down to visit him, and he enjoyed seeing the boy anyway. “Don’t get caught.” He warned his younger brother.

Faramir grinned confidently. “I won’t. Sneaking in here is MUCH easier than sneaking into the House of Healing, and I did that for years without getting caught. Well, at least by anyone who might object.”

Boromir nodded, as that was true enough. “How about helping us finish our essays for history, since you’re here anyway, and we’re not yet finished.” He cajoled his oddly intelligent younger brother.

Faramir sighed. “Isn’t that class in less than an hour? Do any of you ever finish an assignment before the last possible moment?”

Boromir’s friend and roommate Tavasond laughed gaily. “Mine is done. But Boromir and Gendan were occupied last night sneaking out to drink.”

Faramir rolled his eyes at his brother’s wild streak, but gamely enough assisted Gendan and Brom to finish their essays, and even reviewed Tavas’s, making a few suggested changes and corrections. “You’re lucky I studied this topic at Yuletide,” Faramir scolded his brother, “‘else I wouldn’t be able to help you this much.”

“Lucky, nothing.” Boromir retorted. “I chose the topic for our essays, kit, remembering a fair amount of what you babbled about the Kinstrife o’er the holidays.”

“My cousin Dev was in those lessons too.” Gendarion added. “Are you and that little pipsqueak still being taught by some of the same tutors, Faramir?”

“We are. And Dev’s not that bad, Gendan. I keep telling you that.” Faramir protested.

“He’s a little weasel, telling on you for being late to Ada, even when you help him with his lessons. Ungrateful wretch.” Boromir complained.

“I think his father makes him tell on me.” Faramir observed softly. “He always apologizes, after.”

Changing the subject, Gendan asked “What did Umbar get out of sheltering Casimir and his followers, again, Faramir?”

“Nasty bugger, that Casimir.” Tavas interrupted. “If you ask me, all of Harad should be put to the sword. Women, babies, they’re nothing but scum and the breeders of scum.”

Faramir couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He knew that Tavasond’s father Lord Tarston was a prejudiced man, but he’d never heard Boromir’s friend say anything so horrible. Unfortunately, Tavas continued on his tirade against the Haradrim, and Faramir couldn’t stop thinking about the one man from Umbar who had been accidentally tortured to death in front of him a few weeks ago. The trader from Umbar had only been in Gondor to attend his cousin’s wedding, and had accidentally made a joke about Gondorians in front of the wrong guardsman. That, and it had taken the scribe forever to correctly translate what he was saying. Faramir had watched him die with tears in his eyes. When Tavas’s insults grew more and more creative at the urging of the other boys, Faramir felt a noise in his ears like the hum of hundreds of bees. The next thing the Faramir knew, he was attacking his brother’s friend. Normally, a tiny seven year old against a big thirteen year old would be no contest, but Faramir had been trained how to fight at an early age by his brother, who couldn’t always be there when younger bullies taunted his recently motherless baby brother.

Boromir, shocked at this behavior from his normally peace-loving younger brother, was a bit too slow to respond, letting Faramir get a few good hits in before Tavas managed to heave the younger boy off of him. Tavas was also, Boromir noted appreciatively, hampered by the fact that he was trying not to hurt Faramir, even though not hurting Tavas didn’t seem to be Faramir’s concern at the moment.

“Fara!” Boromir reprimanded as he grabbed his brother, who looked ready to attack the pained Tavas again. “What are you doing?”

“They’re not all scum.” Faramir glared at Tavas. “They’re just people.”

Tavas raised his hands in a gesture of peace. He was really annoyed that Boromir’s younger brother had hit him and kicked him just for calling a bunch of foreigners some nasty names, but he was fond of the kid otherwise, and he didn’t want the younger boy to hold a grudge. “Sorry, Faramir.” Tavasond offered. “I forgot that you still don’t like to hear even orcs insulted. You’ll outgrow that when you start having to fight them, I’ll warrant. ‘Til then, I’ll try not to offend your delicate sensibilities.”

Faramir had nodded when Tavas begun his apology. “I’m not going to out-grow it, even though I know I will have to kill orcs. Just because someone is my enemy, doesn’t mean I should have to demean them.” The boy said softly. “I am sorry I lost my temper and hurt you, though.”

Gendarion, trying to lighten the mood, chuckled and stated, “Its a good thing the other cadets are used to hearing thumps from our room, ‘else we’d have someone in to see what is going on.”

Boromir sighed. “True.” Lord Denethor’s older son agreed, then added “You lot go on down to class. I need to have a word with my idiot brother. Tavas, you’re not hurt, are you?”

“Nay, Brom.” The dark-haired boy denied, asking “Don’t be too hard on the kit, eh? I shouldn’t have been using those words around him, anyway.”

Boromir nodded as his friends filed out, both pausing to say farewell to Faramir. When they had left, Boromir turned his brother around to face him. “First off, idiot, are you hurt?”

“No.” Faramir answered softly.

“Very well then.” His older brother said, taking a seat on his bed. “You know what comes next, kit. Don’t make this anymore difficult than it already is.”

Faramir sighed and lowered his leggings, bending unhappily over his brother’s lap. “Don’t you have to finish your essay?” He asked Boromir plaintively.

“It’s done enough, and your attitude is in more need of my attention.” Boromir lectured, bringing his hand down first on one of his brother’s small, white, cheeks, and then the other. “I can’t believe you attacked a friend of mine for no good reason! If this is how you behave at home, no wonder Ada is always complaining that you are sullen and resentful!” Boromir continued, as he continued to bring his hand down sharply on his younger brother’s too-thin backside.

Faramir rigidly held back tears as his brother firmly spanked him. Boromir’s spankings were painful, but never left him bruised or cut, like the punishments he’d received of late from his father’s treasurer. But there was no point in complaining of that to Boromir. No point in complaining that he was only sullen and resentful because he had reason to be. Boromir would probably be on his side if he knew all of what was going on, but Boromir couldn’t do anything to help him. Denethor ruled in Minas Tirith and Gondor, and Denethor had decided that his Treasurer would punish Faramir, because his tutors and his older brother were too soft on him. Denethor had decided that Faramir was old enough to learn to fight with bladed weapons, and that he was not learning fast enough because his old arms-masters were too soft. Gone were the old arms-masters, in were the new ones who didn’t mind leaving cuts or bruises on their pupil, so long as he learned. And he learned. Faramir had learned he was a survivor. He didn’t necessarily like that about himself; but he knew sometimes you had to embrace even the parts of yourself you didn’t like, to accomplish certain objectives.

Boromir, for his part, was growing frustrated. Faramir was showing no signs of remorse, and he had to end this spanking soon, as he would not risk hurting his small, slender brother. “Kit,” Boromir asked, spanking the undercurve of his brother’s backside particularly hard, “are you even listening to me?”

“Aye, I’ve disgraced you and you hate me, and your friends don’t ever want me to come back.” Faramir said, letting his tears free at last. This he could feel guilty for, this attacking of Tavas. It had been an inappropriate reaction, a poor way to treat a friend of Boromir’s who was, after all, probably just repeating word-for-word one of his own father’s tirades. Faramir personally thought the world might be better off without fathers, though at least Gendan seemed to have a nice one. Captain the Lord Tyorvond often brought candies with him to help him stay awake during council meetings, and he always gave one to Faramir and his nephew Dervorin, even though Tyvond, as he was called, was not on speaking terms with his brother, Dervorin’s father, the Lord Morvirin, who was also Denethor’s Treasurer.

Boromir ended the spanking as soon as his brother spoke, setting Faramir gently on his feet and helping him right his clothing. Boromir then lifted his brother carefully onto his lap, cuddling him gently. Faramir relaxed into the embrace. Surely Boromir wouldn’t hold him and soothe him if he hated him?

“I don’t hate you at all, stupid.” Boromir said aloud. “I just want you to act like the well-behaved child you normally are in in front of my friends, ok?”

Faramir sniffled. “Ok.” He agreed.

“And I like when you visit, Fara. I just worry that you’re going to get in trouble for doing so.” Boromir explained. “So have a care, alright?”

“Alright.” His younger brother agreed. “Brom, you’ll be late to class, and me to dinner, if we don’t hurry.”

Boromir chuckled “True. Next time don’t behave like a warg, and I won’t have to waste valuable time spanking you, eh? “

“Ok.” Faramir agreed again, biting down on his argument that if he were a warg, he would’ve bitten Tavas. Faramir turned around to hug his brother, and as he did so Boromir saw clearly a bandage wrapped around his brother’s upper torso, snug by his neck. It had been concealed until now by his tunic and undershirt, but looked like the wrapping for an injury like a pulled muscle in the shoulder.

“What’s this, Fara?’ Boromir asked sternly, touching the bandage gently.

“I fell off of my horse in riding lessons yesterday,” Faramir lied fluently, as the truth would do no one any good. Faramir could just imagine the response if he said, “I didn’t do well enough in my sword lesson yesterday, so my new arms-master held me up by one arm over the battlement, threatening to drop me if my efforts didn’t improve.” Yeah. That would make Boromir angry, and he would tell Denethor, who would mildly ask the arms-master to keep his reprimands of Faramir constructive rather than punitive. “No thanks.” Faramir thought to himself. He had learned to lie as fluently as he could speak Haradrim; he already knew his brother could no longer tell when he lied, not when he went to the quiet place inside his mind before he spoke. And it took less and less effort to reach that place.

“I’m sorry, kit.” Boromir soothed, believing the lie. “You’ll get better, don’t fret. And I’ll sneak you out the door, so you don’t have to worry about climbing down. Take the tunnel from the fourth level directly up to our chambers today, hey? No more climbing with a sore shoulder.”

“Ok, Brom.” Faramir agreed easily, glad that someone still cared about him, and desperate not to loose his brother’s love by telling him that he had lost his temper with Tavas, because he’d had to learn to watch torture without breaking.

The brothers parted at a backdoor to the academy complex, whispered greetings passing between them, and Faramir’s sincere promise to his brother to take care. Faramir would take care; but life had, since Denethor took note of him, become much more filled with things to have a care of. “Fathers,” thought Faramir, “were best left in the dark as to one’s true abilities and intentions. If only I could go back in time, and get someone else to give Mithrandir’s ideas to my father!”

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2 Comment(s)


NB: Comments span all chapters and may contain spoilers!

Oh my God, Faramir is so cute! He’s so adorable, I want a son exactly like him someday.

— Anna    7 October 2010, 20:00    #

Oooh, and the second chapter is even better! (I should have waited to comment, but just couldn’t help myself.)
I love how cunning you’ve made Finduilas—that whole thing with Thorongil, I can’t wait to see how that turns out.
Awesome story!

— Anna    7 October 2010, 20:14    #

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